Washoe Lake State Park
|Washoe Lake State Park|
|Nevada State Park|
View of Slide Mountain from the southeastern end of the park.
|Named for: Washoe Lake|
|Location||Carson City |
|- elevation||5,033 ft (1,534 m) |
|Area||8,053 acres (3,259 ha)|
|Management||Nevada Division of State Parks|
|IUCN category||III - Natural Monument |
|Website: Washoe Lake State Park|
Washoe Lake State Park is a state park of Nevada, USA, on Washoe Lake. It is between the cities of Carson City and Reno near U.S. Route 395 and just east of Lake Tahoe. It is in the Western Nevada Region of Nevada State Parks. The park is open for year-round recreation including, hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. The area around the park is known for its high winds making Washoe Lake a popular destination for windsurfers.
The first known inhabitants of the area in and surrounding Washoe State Park were the Washoe people. The Washoe would generally spend the winter in the lowlands of the Washoe Valley and summer on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The Washoe used cattails and willows from the shores of Washoe Lake to make baskets.
White settlers arrived on a permanent basis in the area soon after the discovery of silver in the Comstock Lode near Virginia City in 1859. The find brought thousands of traders, loggers, and miners to the Washoe Valley. Franktown, west of Washoe Lake, was established by Mormon pioneers in the same year. Two silver processing mills were built near the lake. Ophir Mill was built on Washoe Lake's western shore and the New York Mill was built beside Little Washoe Lake. The remnants of both mills can be seen today.
The Virginia and Truckee Railroad was built through the valley in 1872. It connected Reno with Carson City. This railroad remained in operation until 1950. The mining boom was over by the end of the 1870s and many of the early settlers left the area. Those that remained began ranching and farming the land. The Washoe people were not fully displaced from their traditional lands until the farms and ranches took hold in the Washoe Valley.
Washoe Lake State Park was opened on the southern and eastern shores of the lake in 1977. It was established to preserve the scenic beauty of the area for future generations. The cities of Reno and Carson City are encroaching on the lands of Washoe Lake State Park, but its protected status ensures that the park will remain in its natural state for years to come.
The park is named for Washoe Lake, which is a eutrophic, shallow lake between Reno and Carson City and just east of the much larger Lake Tahoe. It is actually made up of two lakes that are connected by a marsh. The lake reaches a maximum depth of just 12 feet (3.7 m). The shallowness and the high winds make the lake very turbid. Extensive droughts in the past have caused the lake to dry up entirely, most recently in 1992, 1994, and 2004.
Washoe Lake is fed by several small streams which issue from the Virginia Range to the east and the Carson Range to the west. It drains into Steamboat Creek, which runs north to the Truckee River, although much of the water is diverted for irrigation use. Washoe Lake is a warm water fishery and provides a habitat for Sacramento perch, white bass, channel catfish, brown bullhead and carp. The lake has been stocked by the Nevada Division of Wildlife since 2004 when Washoe Lake last dried up. Two boat launches are on the eastern shore of the lake within Washoe Lake State Park.
The lake provided habitat for a variety of birds. There are hundreds of migratory and resident species in Washoe Lake State Park. Pelicans, night and great blue herons can be found on the waters of the lake.
Washoe Lake State Park is open for year-round recreation. There are picnic areas throughout the park with lawns, shade trees and sandy beaches on the lake. There are 49 campsites at the park. Each comes with a table, grill and fire ring. They are open all year and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors with horses are permitted at the park. There is a large equestrian area near the main entrance and near the north boat ramp. Washoe Lake State Park has a large pavilion for group use with a beach volleyball pit and horseshoe pit nearby. Several miles of trails are open to foot, horse and ATV traffic. The most commonly seen wildlife of Washoe Lake State Park are mule deer, hawk, coyotes, and eagles. The park is open to hunting during the designated hunting seasons.
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