DWhat was formerly a true ancient sea covering 85,000 square miles of northern Nevada, still exists in between Carson City and Fallon, at Lahontan State Recreation Area. Dating back more than 20,000 years, most of this prehistoric glacial lake has long since evaporated, with the exception of a few northern Nevada lakes that have managed to hang on—Pyramid, Walker and Lahontan Lakes. Now a state reservoir, recreation abounds at this 69-mile shoreline, divvying up perfect summertime fishing, boating, waterskiing and high desert camping.
ANCIENT GLACIAL LAKE LAHONTAN
Though this body of water has been around for 23,000 years, Lahontan Reservoir was originally dammed as part of an irrigation project—The Newlands Project—to supply water to farmland in the Fallon area. In 1905, Lahontan became the first to deliver water from works constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Diverting and storing water from the nearby Truckee and Carson River Basins, water from Lahontan helps irrigate Fallon’s burgeoning agricultural industries, along with creating hydroelectric power. Drainage water from Fallon farms then flows into Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, which proves to be ranked of global importance for migratory birds passing through the region.
Lahontan Dam is capable of holding 312,000 acre feet of water when it’s full, and when visiting, be sure to keep an eye out for the ancient shoreline surrounding the mountainsides in the area. Though the dam has been part of the northern Nevada story for more than 100 years, it became an official State Recreation in 1971 and hasn’t looked back since.
VISITING LAHONTAN TODAY
The main attraction at this State Recreation Area is the water, drawing in visitors and locals alike for great boating, fishing and waterskiing. When conditions are right, you can even canoe from one state park to another, starting at Fort Churchill State Historic Site, down the Carson River and into Lake Lahontan. Aside from tons of water-based recreation ops, take advantage of amazing horseback riding, hiking, and camping. Wild horses, bobcat, fox and deer share the park with a variety of birds, including pelicans, herons, egrets and hawks. Lahontan is also a nesting site for Bald Eagles, so be sure to keep an eye peeled when cruising through the region.
ADMISSION AND FEES
Admission to Lahontan State Recreation Area is $5.00. Camping is $15.00 per night and offered on a first-come, first-served basis—sites may not be reserved. Silver Springs Beach #7 offers developed campground facilities that are open year-round, equipped with restrooms, tables and grills. Primitive on-the-beach camping is permitted in all areas, except for day use and boat ramp areas. Fees to access the boat launch is $10.00, or if you’re planning to camp and boat at Lahontan, the combined total fee is $20.00 per night. For the most up to date information on hours, campsite availability and entry fees, please click here.
From Carson City, head east on U.S. Highway 50—or the Loneliest Road in America. Travel approximately 35 miles, through the communities of Stagecoach and Silver Springs, past the U.S 95/U.S. 50 junction. State Park headquarters will be located on your right.