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South Fork Reservoir is located on the south fork of the Humboldt River about 16 miles south of Elko in northern Nevada. Although the South Fork Dam was completed in 1988, the reservoir was not completely filled until 1995, making the reservoir the newest one in the state as of this writing. The reservoir was built primarily for recreation, but it also stores excess flow from the Upper Humboldt River drainage area. The reservoir is built entirely on public land, and over 100,000 visitors a year enjoy fishing, boating, and camping at South Fork.
The first white settlers arrived in the area in 1867 and made their home in the fertile South Fork Valley, using the grassy meadows to graze their livestock and grow hay. South Fork Reservoir was built on the site of three ranch complexes dating back to the 1860s: the Porter Ranch, Landa Ranch, and Reinhart Ranch. In 1983, the Tomera family of the Reinhart Ranch, the last of the three still in operation, sold their property to the state of Nevada, paving the way for the construction of South Fork Reservoir. The reservoir measures three miles long and one and a half miles wide at its widest point. The normal pool capacity of the reservoir is 40,000 acre-feet.
The stable water levels at South Fork Reservoir have helped the fish population to flourish. The reservoir is known for its trout, and it is stocked spring and fall with rainbow trout and bowcutt trout by the Nevada Division of Wildlife. The lake is also home to cutthroat trout, smallmouth black bass, largemouth black bass, and channel catfish. Fishing is allowed year-round, twenty-four hours a day. Ice fishing for trout is especially popular in the winter months, when temperatures below zero are common. Anglers can fish from shore in most places around the lake, with the best access being near South Fork Dam and on the southwest shores of the reservoir.
Recreational boating is another popular activity at South Fork Reservoir. Boating is allowed everywhere on the lake with the exception of buoyed areas near South Fork Dam. Two boat launches and ample parking provide easy access for your day at the lake. There are no motor restrictions on boats at South Fork Reservoir, and on a warm day you will find water skiers, jet skiers, and even windsurfers equally at home on the cool waters.
The reservoir adjoins South Fork State Recreation Area, a 2,200 acre park that offers an ideal spot for camping and enjoying nature, all set against the stunning backdrop of the nearby Ruby Mountains. The park is open year-round, but access in the winter may be limited by weather conditions. The park has 25 campsites, each equipped with tables and grills and also accessible to restrooms and showers. The campground is open from May to November. Primitive camping is also available on the west shore of the reservoir. Visitors to South Fork can enjoy observing a variety of wildlife in the park. The lake is home to waterfowl including mallard ducks, pintail ducks, white pelicans, common loons, great blue heron, and Canada geese. Raptors such as golden eagles, bald eagles, hawks, and falcons can also be spotted in the meadows surrounding the reservoir. Visitors might even catch a glimpse of some of the park's four-legged inhabitants, including mule deer, coyote, fox, and even the occasional antelope.
South Fork Reservoir and the rolling hills that surround it are a perfect place to enjoy the natural beauty of northern Nevada. It is easy to see why so many people take advantage of this newest addition to Nevada's state park system.
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