(elev. 3,960)

N39° 28′ 220″    W118° 46′ 444″

An incorporated town & county seat in central Churchill County, 63 miles east of Carson City.

The first thing anybody will notice about Fallon is its sea of green ... in the middle of the desert. That's right. Fallon (pronounced "FAL-un") and Churchill County are mostly agricultural areas, so much in fact that it has been crowned as the "Oasis of Nevada," and "Nevada's Salad Bowl." Approximately sixty percent of all the agriculture grown in Nevada comes from Fallon crops, which range in wide varieties to alfalfa, lettuce, corn, onions, watermelons, strawberries, to its prized cantaloupes. All of this ironically takes place in one the most arid regions of the West! Although the area is extremely dry, approximately 50,000 acres of its pastureland are irrigated with water from the Truckee–Carson Irrigation District (more on this in a minute). The principal crop grown here is alfalfa which is used for livestock feed. However, Fallon is mostly known for its "Heart O' Gold" Cantaloupes, once distributed all across the country, are now grown principally for consumption in Nevada.

Fallon is a rather new community here in Nevada, but the area's history dates back to the California Emigrant Trail. Having just crossed the toilsome and deathly Forty Mile Desert, emigrants en route to California found salvation in the Carson River. The river's stately cottonwood trees provided much needed shade and its water offered cold, fresh water ... finally, after such a long and miserable voyage across Nevada. Here, they rested, hung our their socks and washed their clothes in the river. Their clothes were left in the sun to dry and to all who found the settlement saw a sea of rags and draperies. The settlement was dubbed "Ragtown" and would provide the much needed respite for their final leg to California.

Afterwards, Fallon sort of just "happened," mostly thanks to the Newlands Irrigation Project. Lahontan Dam, completed in 1915, was the key feature of the Newlands Irrigation Project which single-handedly turned the Lahontan Valley into a productive farming and ranching area. With the completion of the dam's powerhouse, the electrical energy needs of Churchill County and the surrounding area were met. The project was one of the first authorized under the Federal Reclamation Act of 1902 and the 1903 construction contract for Derby Dam and the Truckee Canal was the first entered into by the U.S. Reclamation Service, later the Bureau of Reclamation. This undertaking, originally named the Truckee-Carson Project, was renamed the Newlands Project in 1919, in honor of U.S. Senator Francis G. Newlands of Nevada, an ardent supporter of federal reclamation projects and legislation which made them possible. The Newlands Project, like many areas in the West, brought green to a sea of brown, allowing opportunity in a once barren landscape. The Newlands Project hasn't evolved without problems, however. Diversion from the Truckee River, northwest of Fallon, once threatened native populations of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in ancient Pyramid Lake, which unfortunately, brought forth their demise. As lake levels began to decrease, trout populations dwindled to the point of extinction. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout survives in Pyramid Lake today thanks to cross-planting from Walker Lake, south of Fallon. The never-ending issue of water management in the West continues to present forcefully in Nevada, in a state where every drop of water is priceless.

The main intersection in Fallon: Maine and William Sts., aka, US 50 and US 95.
To the left is the Churchill County Courthouse, the only wooden courthouse in Nevada.

Thanks to the Newlands Project, Fallon thrives as a mini city in the desert. Heading eastbound, Fallon is the first major stop on "America's Loneliest Road" (US 50) across central Nevada, complete with high dollar to hole-in-the-wall casinos, major shopping centers, fast food joints, and all the other necessities in a city. Once a sleepy little farming town, Fallon has become somewhat of a bedroom community for Reno-Sparks. Most of Fallon's population works at the Naval Air station Fallon, the single largest employer in the Lahontan Valley; the important naval base is a training airfield that has been the home of the U.S. Navy's so-called "Top Gun" air-to-air combat training program since 1996, when it was moved here from Naval Air Station Miramar. Other residents are ranchers, often siblings or relatives of long-generation ranches on the outskirts of town. The remaining Fallon residents make the commute everyday to and from Reno-Sparks. "The Oasis of Nevada" might feel like such after a summer thunderstorm. In Fallon, it's difficult to say what tickles the senses more: the scent of fresh-cut crops, or the rejuvenating scent of rain and moist sage.

Corn field in Fallon, Nevada.

Fun Facts:

  • Films such as Top Gun, The Wizard, and Kerosene Cowboys have been shot in and around Fallon.
  • Thought to be the world's oldest skeleton, "Early Man" was excavated out of Hidden Cave, just east of Fallon in 1983.

Founded: May 1916
Zip Code(s): 89406, 89407, 89496
Population: 8,606 (2010)

Notable Nooks

  • Oasis Springs Casino
  • Depot Casino & Restaurant
  • Churchill Springs Casino
  • Stockmen's Casino
  • Jerry's Restaurant
  • Main Street Cafe
  • Pizza Barn

Visit Fallon

Mileages to Fallon, NV
From Fernley -- 28
From Yerington -- 59
From Carson City -- 63
From Reno -- 63
From Tonopah -- 175
From Elko -- 252
From Ely -- 257
From Las Vegas -- 389
From Mesquite -- 434


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Great Basin Wilds Photography
Copyright © Paul Sebesta