Yesterday I spent the day in western Nevada, visiting Genoa, Carson City and Virginia City. My primary goal was getting my new book SNOWBOUND! placed in one retail outlet in Virginia City, as well as at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City. Both efforts failed, but the scenery was great in the Carson Valley at the Split Fork Ranch Nature Preserve.
Lake Tahoe looked pretty good on my way to the Carson Valley on April 16, 2016. First decent winter in 5 years. The rocky point in the foreground is the site where eccentric millionaire George Whittell built his Thunderbird Lodge. See Nugget #110 for more about this enigmatic Tahoe character.
In 2000, The Nature Conservancy secured the long-term protection of important habitats along a two-mile section of the Carson River by purchasing the 800-acre River Fork Ranch. Located at the confluence of the east and west forks of the Carson River near Genoa, the land is both a nature preserve and a working cattle operation. Environmental efforts include floodplain protection and habitat restoration.
A legacy of unrestricted grazing, irrigation diversions and dredging of the Carson River channel resulted in degraded ecological conditions. Active restoration work is ongoing at River Fork Ranch to reverse these effects. These cattle are drinking from a diversion ditch, not the Carson River itself, which is about one mile to the southwest.
The preserve’s 800-acre riparian corridor and patchwork of pastures, meadows and wetlands support a robust and diverse wildlife population including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, leopard frogs, coyotes, monarch butterflies and mule deer. Upon my visit I saw hawks and a small herd of a dozen mule deer flitting around the nearby town of Genoa. As is so often the case, there were plenty of tourists eating and drinking at the stores and saloons of Genoa, but only two people at the preserve.
The River Fork Ranch is a great place to enjoy hiking, trail running, wildlife viewing, and of course, photography. The preserve is open to the public from dawn to dusk, daily year round.