Nestled in the spectacularly scenic Washoe Valley, Washoe Lake State Park is a perfect stopover when exploring Nevada’s Capital City, Virginia City or even Lake Tahoe. A dynamic amount of outdoor adventure can be found at Washoe Lake State Park, like some of the state’s only windsurfing opportunities, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and camping. Despite only being an active Nevada State Park for less than 40 years, the American Indian history here runs deep.
AN IMPRESSIVE DOSE OF HISTORY
Washoe, the name of the valley and modern day state park, is rooted from the Washoe Indians who were the first to occupy the region. Retreating to higher, cooler elevations at nearby Lake Tahoe in the summer months, the tribe moved down into lower elevations at Washoe Valley during wintertime. As European explorers made their way west, mining establishments popped up throughout the area, particularly so after gold was discovered in nearby Dayton and the Comstock Lode discovery took place in Virginia City. The Ophir Mill was constructed on Washoe Lake’s west short, and in 1872, the famed Virginia and Truckee Railroad ran lines through Washoe Valley, closing the gap between Reno and Carson City.
By the time the mines went dry and prospectors moved on to the next big boomtown, those who stuck around turned to ranching and farming, taking full advantage of the lush, marshy landscape Washoe Valley delivers. Considering the area had been inundated and perhaps a bit exploited as a result of the nearby mining booms, many of Washoe Valley’s original inhabitants moved on to new locations.
MODERN DAY WASHOE LAKE
In an effort to preserve this spectacular and unique wetland, Washoe Lake State Park was established in 1977. When visiting the park today, enjoy the wetlands, sand dunes, and boundless wildlife spotting opportunities. The Virginia Herd of wild horses is known to linger in the valley, and countless bird species depend on the lake as a resting place on their migration routes. Also be sure to keep your eyes peeled for deer, reptiles and even a coyote or two.
If you’d like to extend your stay, camping is available in your choice of 49 designated camping areas. Each site is equipped with a table, grill and fire ring. The campground is open year round and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, take advantage of the boat launch ramps, incredible hiking trails up to the gazebo vista, unique equestrian facilities and more.
PARK ENTRANCE FEES
$7.00 – Day use entrance fee
$9.00 – Boat launch fee
$17.00 – Camping fee, per night
$19.00 – Camping and boating fee, per night
Washoe Lake State Park is always open, no restrictions or closures.
From downtown Reno, jump on I-80 east from North Center Street. Merge onto I-580 south and continue for 26.4 miles before taking exit 44. Turn left onto East Lake Boulevard and follow until you see the park entrance/fee station on your left. Check in at the visitor center to find out more about seasonal closures and special events in the park during your visit!