Nell Murbarger was born on October 19, 1909, in South Dakota and home-schooled through the eighth grade. She then attended schools in California, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington. An outdoorswoman, she enjoyed riding horses, camping, photography, exploring the western United States, and world travel. She married Wilbur G. Murbarger in 1931 and divorced in 1939. She is credited with being the first to collect Lithophragma maximum, a member of the saxifrage family, in 1936 on San Clemente Island, the southernmost of the Channel Islands in California. She worked for several western newspapers, including the Los Angeles Examiner and the Salt Lake Tribune. She was editor for the Costa Mesa Globe Herald from 1936-39 and for the Newport-Balboa Press from 1940-45. She became a full-time free-lance writer in 1945, writing several books and approximately 1,000 magazine articles on every conceivable desert subject. Her feature stories in Desert Magazine and other periodicals popularized the hobby of "ghost-towning." She received the American Association for State and Local History Award of Merit in 1955. Her Ghosts of the Glory Trail was recognized nationally as the best nonfiction book of 1956. She was a life member of the Nevada Historical Society. She died on December 19, 1991, in California.