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Lahontan Reservoir is located about 45 miles northeast of Carson City, Nevada, on the Carson River. The Lahontan Dam was completed in 1915 and impounds a portion of the Carson River, along with diversions from the Truckee River, to store water for irrigation of the surrounding desert area as well as to produce hydroelectric power. The reservoir was named for prehistoric Lake Lahontan, which covered 8,500 square miles of northern Nevada during the Ice Age. Today, the reservoir provides a welcome oasis for fishing, boating, camping, and nature watching.
Visitors to Lahontan Reservoir should be aware that the water levels are subject to extreme fluctuations depending on drought conditions and water usage. The reservoir has a storage capacity of 274,000 acre-feet, but in times of need, especially in summer, it can be drawn as low as 4,000 acre-feet. This impacts the types of recreational activities that are possible at the lake, so it is best to check on current lake levels before planning your trip.
Fishing and recreational boating are of course popular activities at the reservoir. The lake is home to walleye, brown trout, rainbow trout, channel catfish, white bass, and white crappie. State-record wipers (a cross between white bass and striped bass) have also been caught at the lake. Fishing is available year-round in the reservoir's warm waters. The State of Nevada has a fish consumption advisory for Lahontan Reservoir due to mercury runoff from area mines during the late 1800s.
Accessing the lake by boat is easy; there are two paved boat launches at the reservoir: at Silver Springs Beach and at Churchill Beach. In addition, boaters with four wheel drive vehicles can launch their boats from the beach. Because there are no motor restrictions on the lake, water skiing is a favorite summertime activity at the reservoir. There are also multiple swimming beaches available to help visitors escape the hot Nevada sun.
The reservoir is ideal for camping, and visitors may pitch tents along any part of the sandy shore that is not reserved for day-use. Silver Springs Beach also has a dedicated campground that is open summer and fall. Even if you don't plan to stay the night, you can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the sights and sounds of the peaceful lake and its shores. Picnic areas are available across from the Lahontan Dam and at Silver Springs Beach, and are equipped with picnic tables, grills, and modern restrooms.
Because the lake is surrounded by the Lahontan State Recreation Area, it is mainly undeveloped and offers plenty of opportunities for nature watching. The land in the park is primarily desert sagebrush, with cottonwood and willow trees around the shoreline. The park is home to wild horses, bobcat, coyote, fox, and deer. The reservoir is also a great place to view birds, including pelicans, herons, egrets, and hawks. Lahontan Reservoir is home to the only known nesting pair of bald eagles in the state of Nevada.
Lahontan Reservoir offers a refreshing respite from the hot summer sun. Here, fishing, boating, and water skiing can all be enjoyed just steps away from the desert sands. Be sure not to pass up a visit to this relaxing desert oasis.
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