Nevada State Parks offer a winter wonderland
From ice fishing at the remote and remarkable Wild Horse State Recreation Area in the north to cool hikes through southern Nevada’s Valley of Fire, 24 state parks dot Nevada. This winter, they are ripe for exploration and ready to enjoy.
Beaver Dam: (Panaca) Always open, Beaver Dam was formed from more than 10 million years of volcanic activity and erosion. A designated Watchable Wildlife Area, its out-of-the-way location makes for rugged winter camping and hikes. Nearby OHV trails provide plenty of paths to enjoy the rustic beauty of the area.
Berlin-Ichthyosaur: (Berlin) A true Nevada ghost town, many of Berlin’s original buildings remain from the 1890s. The park is also home to the most abundant concentration and largest known remains of Ichthyosaurs, an ancient marine reptile that swam in a warm ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago. You can enjoy winter camping, a self-guided tour, and trails with markers that explain the town’s rich history.
Big Bend of the Colorado: (Laughlin) Situated on the shores of the Colorado River, at Nevada’s southern tip, the park offers year-round camping and hiking, while surrounded by a variety of waterfowl and shore birds that make this park home. Mallards, coots and herons enjoy the clear cool river water, while hawks, hummingbirds, doves and owls soar and circle above.
Cathedral Gorge: (Panaca) Located in a long, narrow valley in southeastern Nevada, the park has great walking trails that meander by cave-like formations and cathedral-like spires, the result of geologic processes from tens of millions of years ago. A photographer’s dream, the park offers stunning views of the scenic canyon. Visitors can enjoy horseback riding, hiking, picnicking, camping and nature study.
Cave Lake: (Ely) Winter recreation is popular at Cave Lake during normal winters when several feet of snow may cover the park. Lake ice may be as thick as 24” during the coldest part of the winter, making ice fishing popular, and the catch rate good. Other activities include ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. In addition to camping sites, there is also a yurt available by reservation.
Lake Tahoe: (Lake Tahoe Basin) Nestled in the Lake Tahoe Basin, the Spooner Lake & Backcountry portion of the park offers more than 12,000 acres of forested open space with 50 miles of hiking, equestrian and mountain biking trails, as well as cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Dayton: (Dayton) At the foot of the Virginia Range, on the banks of the Carson River, Dayton State Park is rich in picturesque beauty as well as gold and silver mining history. Camp, picnic, hike, or tour the remains of the Rock Point Mill, built in 1861, a remnant of Dayton’s mining glory days.
Echo Canyon: (Pioche) Showcasing the beauty of Eastern Nevada, Echo Canyon State Park offers year-round opportunities to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. The 65-acre reservoir offers rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crappie and German brown trout for those who love to fish. Campers and hikers can also enjoy the eagles, hawks, songbirds, owls, and vultures that soar through the canyons and valleys.
Elgin Schoolhouse: (Elgin) Generations of children were educated in this one-room school, which covered grades one through eight from 1922 through 1967. An addition to the building provided a small apartment for the teacher, since there was no housing available in the tiny community. Tours are offered by appointment only. To schedule a tour, call State Parks at 775-726-3564.
Fort Churchill/Buckland Station: (Silver Springs) An Army post built in 1861, Fort Churchill helped guard early settlers and the Pony Express route, acting as a base for hundreds of soldiers. Visitors today can walk designated trails to study the ruins, camp, and picnic. The park also features the renovated Buckland Station, an important way station in the 1800s for pioneer travelers on the Overland Route.
Ice Age Fossils: (Las Vegas) Tens of thousands of years ago, long before neon lights covered the Las Vegas Valley, dire wolves, saber tooth tigers and Columbian mammoths roamed the area, and the fossils of these prehistoric animals remain. Stay tuned for this park’s official opening in 2019.
Kershaw-Ryan: (Caliente) Situated in a colorful canyon, with towering walls up to 700 feet high and a long, verdant valley in between, Kershaw-Ryan is an oasis in the desert, a sharp contrast to the rugged landscape that surrounds it. A great choice for hiking, camping and nature studies, it’s not unusual to see wild horses, deer and other wildlife come out to water at the natural springs or spring-fed pond.
Lahontan: (Fallon) Named after an ancient Lake, Lahontan Reservoir was originally built as part of an irrigation project to water nearby farmlands. With willows and cottonwoods scattered along 69 miles of shoreline, the park is a popular place to boat, fish, horseback ride, camp, hike, and enjoy the outdoors year-round.
Mormon Station: (Genoa) The site of Nevada’s first permanent, non-native settlement, Mormon Station was built in 1851 as a trading post along the Carson Route of the California Trail, providing much needed supplies to weary travelers crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Today, the park is home to a reconstructed version of the original trading post that burned down in 1910 and a museum with pioneer-era artifacts.
Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort: (Las Vegas) More than 150 years ago, a spring-fed creek flowed through the Las Vegas Valley, creating an oasis in the desert where Mormon missionaries built an adobe fort. Today the park, located in downtown Las Vegas, includes a remnant of the original fort that is used to display historic artifacts. In addition, a museum contains exhibits and photos that illustrate the history of the site.
Rye Patch: (Lovelock) Rye Patch visitors enjoy camping, picnicking, and white bass, catfish and walleye fishing at the 22-mile long reservoir created by a dam on the Humboldt River. Trails around and throughout the park make it easy to enjoy the waterfowl and wildlife that abound, including hawks, eagles, owls, great egrets, antelope, deer and fox. The park also serves as a popular base camp for OHVs, ghost town exploration, and gold prospecting.
South Fork: (Elko) Surrounded by meadows and rolling hills, with the Ruby Mountains as a backdrop, South Fork offers broth primitive and developed camping. Popular for hunting, boating and wildlife viewing, the park is also known for the reservoir’s trophy-class trout, and abundant bass and catfish.
Spring Mountain Ranch: (Las Vegas) Beneath the breathtaking escarpment of the Red Rock Mountains, Spring Mountain Ranch, the first working ranch in the Las Vegas Valley, was once a luxurious retreat for millionaire Howard Hughes, then German actress Vera Krupp. Today visitors can explore historic buildings and enjoy a variety of hiking trails and picnic sites.
Spring Valley: (Pioche) A popular area for boating and camping, Spring Valley also allows visitors the opportunity to tour historic ranches built in the late 1800s. The 59-acre Eagle Valley Reservoir offers fishermen an opportunity to catch rainbow, tiger and German brown trout, and attracts an array of waterfowl and shore birds, including mallards, herons, avocets, and the infrequent, yet beautiful, trumpeter swan.
Valley of Fire: (Overton) A geologic wonderland, world-renowned Valley of Fire has 2,000 year old petroglyphs carved into massive red sandstone formations in the Mohave Desert. These stunning and unique sandstone formations were formed from shifting sand dunes 150 million years ago. A Visitor Center provides exhibits on the geology, ecology, prehistory and history of the park and nearby region. Cooler winter temperatures make it a remarkable place to camp, hike and picnic.
Walker River: (Yerington) Rugged and vast, Walker River State Recreation Area spans more than 12,000 acres of rustic rangeland along 28 miles of the picturesque East Walker River, offering a bounty of year-round activities, such as camping, hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, trophy fishing, and hunting.
Ward Charcoal Ovens: (Ely) Built in the 1870s, the park’s ovens are some of the best preserved kilns in the United States. Created to support mining, they later sheltered travelers, and had a reputation as a hideout for stagecoach bandits. Visitors can enjoy camping, picnicking, hiking and an OHV trail that connects to thousands of acres of BLM lands.
Washoe Lake: (Washoe Valley) Nestled in a scenic valley where bald eagles soar, Washoe Lake, with its breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada and Virginia mountain ranges, is a popular area for fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking and equestrian activities. Bird watchers delight in the diversity of migratory birds and waterfowl.
Wild Horse: (Elko) Cold winters make the lake an ideal location to ice fish and skate, or to explore on snowmobiles or skis. Although hunting is not allowed in the park, the campground is a popular base camp for hunting in the surrounding area. Wildlife includes pronghorn, mule deer and elk, as well as a variety of waterfowl and upland game birds.
The passport challenge continues: The Nevada State Parks Passport Booklet may be picked up at any state park. Visitors who have their booklets stamped at 15 different parks will earn a free annual pass to all Nevada State Parks. The booklet, which serves as a travel aid as well as travelogue for park visitors, includes photos, a description of each park, lists of amenities, travel journal pages and spaces for validation stamps which have been designed to reflect each unique state park.