ROAD TRIP: New state park to open September 22, 2018

Walker River State Recreation Area, provided by Nevada State Parks.
Walker River State Recreation Area, provided by Nevada State Parks.

Walker River State Recreation Area opens later this month near Yerington, about 85 miles southeast of Reno – the perfect excuse for a road trip through this rural northern Nevada region. Road trip map here.

Anchoring the road trip is the Walker River State Recreation Area, set to open to the public Sept. 22. Scheduled activities include Dutch-oven cooking, archery, fishing clinics, hay rides, kids’ games and a barbecue. The Walker River park consists of four properties along a 28-mile stretch of the East Walker River: the Pitchfork, Rafter 7, Flying M and Nine Mile ranch properties. It’s the Pitchfork Ranch section that opens Sept. 22, along with a seven-mile section next to the river.

The other land units, the except the Flying M parcel, will open to the public at a later date, as development and infrastructure is completed. The Flying M is under a life estate agreement and is not planned for development at this time. Overall, the park will cover 12,000 acres and provide opportunities for camping, kayaking, OHV- and horseback-riding, and fishing. Park entrance fee is $5. Details here.

Make a day trip out of it

Fort Churchill State Historic Park in Silver Springs, just off Alternate U.S. Highway 95, is along the way to Walker River from Reno. The park’s centerpiece is a 19th century U.S. Army fort, now in ruins. Visit the park visitors’ center to get the story behind this early western outpost, established in 1861 and abandoned in 1869. Park entrance fee is $5.

On your visit, you also may want to check out Buckland Station. It’s part of the state park but located about a half-mile south of the Fort Churchill entrance road. After Fort Churchill was dismantled, Samuel Buckland built the two-story house and rented rooms to pioneer travelers. Riders on the Pony Express, the old West horseback mail service, stopped here to change mounts. Admission to the Buckland Station museum is $1.

The Jeanne Dini Cultural Center in Yerington, now the home of the Yerington Theatre for the Arts, is another great place to stop. The historical building (formerly Yerington Grammar School No. 9) houses two art galleries and a café open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Make a weekend of it

Overnight in Yerington or the Smith Valley area before heading back to Reno on U.S. Highway 395 through the Carson Valley. The Walker River Resort in Smith Valley and the Yerington Inn are some options.

Driving back to Reno through the Carson Valley, get a sense of the region’s history at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center in Gardnerville (open weekdays and the first Saturday of the month) or book a guided tour at the Dangberg Home Ranch in Minden. Recreational opportunities including hiking around River Fork Ranch in Genoa or booking a glider plane ride at SoaringNV in Minden.

For more things to do in Nevada, as well as road trip itineraries, visit

Pitchfork Ranch at Walker River State Recreation Area, provided by Nevada State Parks.
Pitchfork Ranch at Walker River State Recreation Area, provided by Nevada State Parks.
Chris Moran
About Chris Moran 218 Articles
Chris Moran has lived in Reno since 1996, and currently works at the Nevada Division of Tourism as a public relations specialist. She is a former editor and writer at the Reno Gazette-Journal, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her hobbies include skiing, hiking, reading, photography, coffee and coffeehouses, and exploring Nevada. Check out her blog at