Walker River

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Walker River
Country United States
State Nevada
Cities Yerington, Mason, Wabuska
Primary source West Walker River
 - location Sierra Nevada, California
 - elevation 9,640 ft (2,938 m)
 - coordinates 38°08′24″N 119°30′28″W / 38.14000°N 119.50778°W / 38.14000; -119.50778 [1]
Secondary source East Walker River
 - location Bridgeport Valley, California
 - elevation 6,570 ft (2,003 m)
 - coordinates 38°11′44″N 119°17′09″W / 38.19556°N 119.28583°W / 38.19556; -119.28583 [2]
Source confluence
 - location Yerington, Lyon County, Nevada
 - elevation 4,442 ft (1,354 m)
 - coordinates 38°53′35″N 119°10′44″W / 38.89306°N 119.17889°W / 38.89306; -119.17889 [3]
Mouth Walker Lake
 - location Mineral County, Nevada
 - elevation 3,973 ft (1,211 m)
 - coordinates 38°48′56″N 118°44′40″W / 38.81556°N 118.74444°W / 38.81556; -118.74444Coordinates: 38°48′56″N 118°44′40″W / 38.81556°N 118.74444°W / 38.81556; -118.74444 [3]
Length 62 mi (100 km)
Basin 3,134 sq mi (8,117 km2)
Discharge for Wabuska, NV
 - average 164 cu ft/s (5 m3/s)
 - max 3,280 cu ft/s (93 m3/s)
 - min 0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)
Walker River and Walker Lake

The Walker River is a river in west central Nevada in the United States, approximately 62 miles (100 km) long. It drains an arid portion of the Great Basin southeast of Reno, with a watershed that extends into the Sierra Nevada mountains. It flows within an enclosed basin. Due to excessive diversions, it no longer provides the principal inflow of Walker Lake. It does flow through and maintain Topaz Lake (West Fork). The river was named for explorer Joseph Reddeford Walker. Its average discharge is about 360 cubic feet per second (10 m3/s).


The river was probably discovered by Hudson's Bay Company fur trapper Peter Skene Ogden, who discovered the Humboldt River in 1828 and returned in 1829 to trap beaver south of the Humboldt Sink, although records are scant.[4] In 1833, Joseph R. Walker led a party sent by Captain Benjamin Bonneville, to find a route from the Great Salt Lake to California via the Humboldt River, the Humboldt Sink, the Carson Sink, and then up into the Sierra Nevada by either the Carson River or the Walker River to near the headwaters of the Merced River and thence down to the San Joaquin River.[5] John Charles Fremont named Walker Lake after the trapper and the United States Geographic Board named the river after Walker in its Fifth Report.[6]

Watershed and Course[edit]

The Walker River is formed in southern Lyon County, 9 mi (11 km) south of Yerington, by the confluence of the East Walker and West Walker rivers; the East Walker is regulated by the Bridgeport Reservoir, while the West Walker comes directly from snowmelt. It flows initially north past Yerington into central Lyon County, where it turns sharply to the southeast, flowing through the Walker River Indian Reservation past Schurz. It almost enters the northern end of Walker Lake, along the east side of the Wassuk Range, approximately 20 mi (32 km) NNW of Hawthorne.

The Walker River's endorheic drainage basin covers an area of 12,800 sq mi (33,000 km2).[7] The U.S. Geological Survey divides the basin into 4 sub-basins:

Most of the streamflow is consumed by irrigation before reaching Walker Lake. The diversions have caused the level of Walker lake to drop by 140 ft (42 m) between 1882 and 1994. The eastern branch of the river is one of the last natural trout fisheries in California.

Due to a very heavy snowpack in the winter of 1996/1997 and a very warm spring the west fork of the Walker River flooded to unprecedented levels. Much of Highway 395 for the 30 mile span where it shares a canyon with the river was completely washed away.


That North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) were once native to the Walker River is evidenced by a 1906 article in the Nevada State Journal newspaper by newspaper mining writer Fitz-James MacCarthy (aka Fitz-Mac) stated that the Mason's Valley of the Walker River in Yerington, Nevada was well known to "the early trappers and fur hunters...Kit Carson knew it to the bone...The beavers of course were all trapped long ago, and you never see an elk nowadays..."[8] Beaver have since re-colonized the Walker River watershed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: West Walker River
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: East Walker River
  3. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Walker River
  4. ^ James W. Hulse (1990). The Nevada Adventure, Sixth Edition,. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0874171594. 
  5. ^ James O'Meara. "Joseph R. Walker". Journal of the Oregon Historical Society: 358. 
  6. ^ Carlson, Helen S. (1974). Nevada Place Names: a Geographical Dictionary. University of Nevada Press. pp. 240–241. ISBN 978-0-87417-094-8. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Boundary Descriptions and Names of Regions, Subregions, Accounting Units and Cataloging Units". USGS.gov. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  8. ^ Fitz-James MacCarthy (1906-02-18). "Wonderful Deposits of High-Grade Rock". Nevada State Journal. Retrieved 2011-07-10. 

External links[edit]