Which Washoe are you?
Faces and places. Washoe County holds three distinct faces and each place poles apart more diverse than any other place in Nevada. When you think about it, Washoe County is one strange duck. It's a place both untouched by modern man in its remote northern sector and cleansed in the western reaches by alpine fragrance and azure blue water. Yet it's also a place that prides itself as a bustling metropolis. Washoe County is a rarity in America. You can be trapped in the "spaghetti bowl" at rush hour, taking a selfie on the Strip, and in only a few hours, be left speechless among the vast emptiness of the Black Rock. You might begin your day in a kayak on the waters of Tahoe only to switch gears to a float tube on the Truckee River. You might begin your day at 10,000 feet above the world on Mt. Rose and then cruise the Reno Arch or roll the dice amidst the glitz and glamour of urban Reno. You can then end the day on the shore of America's most beautiful desert lake, standing in silence on the Black Rock Desert or beneath the towering walls of High Rock Canyon. This is precisely why the people of Washoe are also just as colorful. Here you'll witness a Reno city slicker be stared down if he dares to order a cappucino at Bruno's Country Club. A young snowboarder from Incline Village will butt heads about life and liberty with an old timer from Wadsworth or a rancher from Washoe Valley. Ever see a real cowboy stand side by side with a rhinestone cowboy? Variety preserves identity. Washoe's "faces and places" are precisely why we love this place!
1st: Timeless Places
The first face is a timeless place where emigrant trails and their graffiti still exist in remote canyon country known as High Rock. Welcome to one face of Washoe - a land comprising of the extreme northern half known known as "the northwest corner." In this unpopulated sector are the tiny outposts of Wadsworth, Nixon and Gerlach that find refuge from Reno's hungry metropolis. Today, there are still only a few reasons why the average person would venture into this region. One is to see Pyramid Lake described as "America's Most Beautiful Desert Lake." The other is to see the desert and still another reason is to see "The Desert." The Black Rock Desert. Here even the most generic of rules won't be ignored. In this face of Washoe a single man is still (as he was back then) tiny against the land.
2nd: The Glitz
There's no comparing the second face of Washoe. Welcome to Reno. Here, the city does as she has always done: break the rules. And do we love this place! "The Biggest Little City in the World" is still the place to be. Reno enjoys its nickname not for the sake of sporting a pretty spiffy place name but because it puts its distinction as a "rural city" to the test. Newcomers make the foolish declaration that Reno is the Las Vegas version of the north when in reality they're comparing two entirely different cities in both substance. Tourists in the know don't rely on gaming as their primary incentive to come to Reno. One look in every scenic direction often provides the answer. "Reno-ites" enjoy proximity to the mountains and the desert. Why be anywhere else when you can ski, fish, hike, camp, 4x4, and backpack within minutes from home? And Reno doesn't hide its night-time scene either. Our fine city fancies itself on not just its neon but also its relaxed way of life. Despite its total population of over 200,000, this is a city that still manages to hang to a unique small-town atmosphere. Here we have a clean city with character, sass, reservation, and excitement all rolled into one. But it does have problems. As more and more "spillovers" decide to make this home, Reno's ruralty is put to the test with its close proximity to California. However, throughout history this city has always been a problem-solver. When other states prohibited divorce, Reno became the "cure." When prohibition loomed over the nation, Reno became the answer in its speakeasies and basement casinos. Even during the Comstock, Reno held its ground in innovation by providing service and industry. Reno has earned its spot as "the city" in Nevada.
3rd: Tranquil Pastures The Markers Start by tackling the markers in the southern Truckee Meadows and work eastward on McCarran Blvd. You'll find three around Victorian Square and one more in nearby Deer Park. Continue northwest on McCarran as you approach northwest Reno and jump onto northbound 395 to bag that lone straggler at Red Rock Road (256) Return to McCarran and bounce onto I-80 to tackle the three stragglers in Mogul and Verdi. Your return trip on I-80 will provide you the chance to tackle the cluster of markers surrounding UNR, downtown Reno and the remaining landmarks off of Virginia Street. Due to the insane distribution of markers allow at least two days to effectively tackle these urban markers. Not only will it be less stressful, but two days allows you some quality time with Reno's interesting nighttime sights and scenes.
Washoe County's third face is a meeting of the minds. Most "Reno-ites" have strong ties to Incline Village and the Tahoe Basin. Gerlach, Wadsworth and Pyramid Lake stand alone as bystanders away from the main action. No destinction or instructions required. In the late 1860s, "the valley" earned its credit as a lumber export for the Comstock Lode. Washoe City, the first ever seat of Washoe County grew into a sustaining freight community that utilized a unique shipping system on the shore of Washoe Lake. Here lumber was shipped by log flume from the valley's piney westside. From there the lumber was loaded and freighted across the lake where it was then sent up by rail or mule up the Virginia Range to the Comstock mines. This brief era was about the most excitement the Valley ever received. Washoe City shriveled up at the end of this era and the seat was moved to Reno. Ever since, Washoe City was thought as mostly an annoying speed trap in between Reno and Carson City before the construction of the 580 freeway. Nobody seemed to care yet Washoe Valley could be the last remnant of Reno's ruralty - a place where the mountains poignantly meet the desert and people's hearts still beat with the land. Here, there are no busy city lights, jaws of crime, or traffic jams. The valley preserves a valuable demarcation between urban and rural and it's proud to be a part of neither.
With its newest addition in 2007, Washoe County has a total of 43 markers - the most of any county in Nevada. To acquire all 42 of these you will need a bit of patience and a heart for exploration. A little over half of the action happens in urban Washoe, mostly within the city limits of Reno and Sparks. Fortunately these two cities aren't difficult to navigate but the markers' distribution make tackling urban Washoe a challenge especially during the summer. Expect quite a few instances where you'll be forced to double-back because of downtown festivities and tripled pedestrian traffic. If you plan to conquer Reno during the busy tourist season (Memorial Day through Labor Day) we suggest retreating away from Virginia Street and following McCarran Blvd. McCarran is a giant circle that completely rings both cities - allowing you ample opportunity to bounce off anywhere in Reno-Sparks. Here's one possible itinerary ...
The Markers Start by tackling the markers in the southern Truckee Meadows and work eastward on McCarran Blvd. You'll find three around Victorian Square and one more in nearby Deer Park. Continue northwest on McCarran as you approach northwest Reno and jump onto northbound 395 to bag that lone straggler at Red Rock Road (256) Return to McCarran and bounce onto I-80 to tackle the three stragglers in Mogul and Verdi. Your return trip on I-80 will provide you the chance to tackle the cluster of markers surrounding UNR, downtown Reno and the remaining landmarks off of Virginia Street. Due to the insane distribution of markers allow at least two days to effectively tackle these urban markers. Not only will it be less stressful, but two days allows you some quality time with Reno's interesting nighttime sights and scenes.
Start by tackling the markers in the southern Truckee Meadows and work eastward on McCarran Blvd. You'll find three around Victorian Square and one more in nearby Deer Park. Continue northwest on McCarran as you approach northwest Reno and jump onto northbound 395 to bag that lone straggler at Red Rock Road (256) Return to McCarran and bounce onto I-80 to tackle the three stragglers in Mogul and Verdi. Your return trip on I-80 will provide you the chance to tackle the cluster of markers surrounding UNR, downtown Reno and the remaining landmarks off of Virginia Street. Due to the insane distribution of markers allow at least two days to effectively tackle these urban markers. Not only will it be less stressful, but two days allows you some quality time with Reno's interesting nighttime sights and scenes.
Washoe is distinctively known as northern Nevada's urban county but many forget this is but one tiny portion of this giant county. The minute you leave the Truckee Meadows the typical face of rural Nevada makes its presence known! People forget that the majority of Washoe is highly rural, so rural in fact that you may need to plan in advance on how to tackle these rural markers. As you would any rural county bring everything but the kitchen sink with you. Here variety is the spice of life. Find them on the sagebrush sea, cemetery grounds, beneath high-rise buildings, city parks, in timber forests, alpine lakes, mountain passes, and high-end ski resorts. Which Washoe are you?
"Here was located one of the busiest crossroads of pioneer Nevada, converging point for many major toll roads of the area."
"America's most beautiful desert lake is a remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan, which during the Ice Age covered over 8,000 square miles."
"Named for a former teamster-turned-sheepman, Elias Olinghouse, who settled in a quiet canyon at the base of the Pah Rah mountain range to get away from it all."
Superlative: Only Marker Written in Two Languages
"This honors the heroism and hardwork of the thousands of Chinese who played a major role in the history of Nevada."
"Myron C. Lake acquired Fuller's holdings in 1861, rebuilt the bridge and established Lake's Crossing."
"Derby Dam, constructed under specification Number 1 and Drawing 1 of the U.S. Reclamation Service, now the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, diverts the flow of the Truckee River for irrigation use."
"The Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake and was first discovered by Captain John C. Fremont in January, 1844."
"... He camped by its terminus at Pyramid, then followed it to the big bend at Wadsworth."
"From 1868 until 1884, the Central Pacific's Truckee Wadsworth Division was located on this site."
"Among those buried here are members of the Nevada volunteers who served in their own state and neighboring areas of the West from 1861 to 1866."
"This tree was planted in soil from Civil War battle fields and dedicated to the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic by the National Commander in Chief June 10, 1913."
"Sparks sprang into existence in 1903 as a new division point on the Southern Pacific Railroad."
"This large carpenter-Gothic style structure, completed about 1864, was the ranch home of Theodore and Maggie Winters and their seven children."
"Franktown was established by Orson Hyde, probate judge of Carson County, Utah Territory in the Wassau Valley, (Washoe Valley) in 1855."
"Five men, led by a stage robber, Sunday School superintendent John Chapman, boarded the Central Pacific Overland Express at Verdi, Nevada."
"On May 12, 1860, Northern Paiute warriors, fighting to retain their way of life, decisively defeated a volunteer army from Virginia City and nearby settlements."
"Prehistoric man left his rockshelters, campsites, and petroglyphs in this historically rich, remote, volcanic area."
"Situated between Black Rock Desert on the east and Smoke Creek Desert on the west, the townsite of Gerlach lies in country long occupied by prehistoric man."
"Bowers Mansion is another reminder of the Comstock bonanza. Lemuel S. "Sandy" and Eilley Orrum Bowers were probably the first millionaires produced by the fabulous find in Gold Canyon."
"Over the years a great many Nevadans were educated at Glendale School. Perhaps the most notable student was U.S. Senator Patrick A. McCarran."
"Soon after 1900, some 373 miles of the original Central Pacific (now Southern Pacific) line between Reno and Ogden, Utah, was rebuilt."
"Modern Verdi came into being with the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad through Nevada in 1867-69."
"The Comstock mining activities and the coming of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad in 1871 caused Steamboat to become a terminal."
"This building was constructed as a passenger depot for the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad, a narrow-gauge line connecting Reno with northern California and southern Oregon."
Superlative: Only Marker Located in Two Counties at Once
"Constructed by Davison M. Geiger and John H. Tilton in 1862, this old toll road was the most direct connection between the Comstock Lode and the Truckee Meadows ..."
"Galena had a dual personality. It was developed in 1860 as a mining property by R.S. and Andrew Hatch."
"During the boom years of the Comstock Lode, the sixties and the seventies, the station was crowded with freight outfits, stagecoaches and weary teamsters."
"Promoted by Tex Rickard, the fight brought over 30,000 fans to Reno, some 22,000 of whom packed the arena here on the day of the fight."
"History records Sand Harbor as playing an important role in the operations of the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company ..."
"Home of Myron C. Lake, founder of Reno, this structure was built in 1877 by Washington J. Marsh."
Superlative: Highest in Elevation
"Two miles northwest of this point lies Mt. Rose, on the 10,778 foot summit."
"Before the arrival, 1858, of Granville W. Huffaker driving 500 head of cattle into the Truckee Meadows, the principal settlers were Mormons"
"Opened to the public on June 20, 1909, Coney Island was among the most elaborate amusement parks of its day."
"The Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, dedicated to excellence in architecture, honors the memory of Frederick Joseph DeLongchamps."
"Completed in 1880, this 4,000-foot long lift was constructed by the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company."
"Nevada's first public library building was erected on this site in 1904 ..."
"Henry M. Yerington drove the last spike a mile west of Carson City on Aug. 24, 1872, connecting Virginia City with Reno by rail."
"In October of 1846, the ill-fated Donner Party spent five days in this area resting and grazing their weary animals."
"Prior to state and federally constructed highways, a stage and toll road between Honey Lake and Virginia City was more or less maintained under a succession of private owners such as Myron C. Lake."
Superlative: Most Difficult to Find
"Eight grave sites to the north rests Emmet Derby Boyle (1879-1926), the first native-born Governor of Nevada, serving from 1915 to 1923."
"The Galena Creek Fish Hatchery represents an attempt to make amends after Nevada's Comstock Lode ravaged the region's ecosystem in the 1860's and 70s."