Birding in Nevada generally centers around areas with water or marshland, but in the Carson Valley, about 50 miles south of Reno, the draw is ranches. If we’re getting really real, the draw is afterbirth from the winter calving season. Raptors — eagles, hawks and falcons — visit the area to feed during the months of January and February.
That phenomenon is the basis for the Eagles & Ag, an annual event with birdwatching tours, ranching seminars and photography sessions. Now in its 15th year, Eagles & Ag is Jan. 26-29, but if you can’t make the festival, you may want to take a day trip down to Genoa, a Carson Valley community at the base of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Here, there’s a few places to see birds (and, separately, a nice trail to walk your dog, if, like me, a dog is part of your outdoor adventures).
River Fork Ranch. This 800-acre preserve is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy, and is both a nature preserve and a working cattle operation. Hiking and wildlife viewing is popular at River Fork Ranch, which has a riparian landscape supporting such birds as bald eagles and sandhill cranes. River Fork Ranch is at 308 Genoa Lane in Minden, on the south side of the road. Dogs are not allowed, but, driving Genoa Lane, you still might see eagles from your car. My husband and I counted five standing on streetlights on a recent trip.
Jacks Valley Road/Foothill Road/Nevada state Route 206. This roadway along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada is part of a popular birding route as outlined by both the Carson Valley Visitors Authority and the Lahontan Audubon Society. East of Jacks Valley Road are ranches and a section of the Carson River: look for golden and bald eagles along this route.
Discovery Trail in Genoa. Part of the Genoa Trail System, Discovery Trail is a great place to walk around when you can’t really go birding because your dog has to come with you. The trailhead is at the end of Eagle Ridge Road, which is on the west side of Jacks Valley Road. Parking is at the Eagle Ridge Trail Access. Here, you’re at 5,200 feet, which gives you a nice view of the Carson Valley. The trail itself gets narrow and winds in ad out of trees, with some elevation gain.
If you have time, you may want to explore the community of Genoa, population 939, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. The community dates back to 1851 — before Nevada was even a state — when a trading post was established to cater to travelers on the Overland Emigrant Trail. A favorite watering hole is the Genoa Bar, which claims to be the oldest in Nevada. Or grab something to eat at the Genoa Station Bar & Grille, which has an interesting mural of an old West stagecoach being chased by motorcycles. If you want to make a weekend out of it, consider David Walley’s Hot Springs Resort, 2001 Foothill Road in Genoa. Walley’s has naturally heated outdoor hot spring pools as well as other amenities. Happy New Year!