Increasingly keen on the value of rivers beyond farming and fishing, Nevada's tourism officials are recommending river recreation become a focus in Carson City as it has in Reno with last year's opening of a $1.5 million whitewater park.
"There's a lot of potential there that is hugely underdeveloped," said Nevada Commission on Tourism Media Relations Manager Chris Chrystal.
The float through Carson City at Carson River Canyon is one of the most scenic on the Carson River, Chrystal said, but inaccessibility for rafts and kayaks along with random spots of seedy character conspire to keep it one of the least talked about.
There are several minor improvements that could have major results, she said.
Some paths, a couple spots to put boats in or pull them out of the river, and a thorough cleanup effort could transform the river into a destination for tourists and residents.
Problem areas along the river, where squatters, junk cars and old appliances lurk among the trees and tall grass have drawn the attention of local residents and public officials as well as the tourism agency.
Planning Commissioner Mark Kimbrough joked at a public meeting last month that "you take your life into your own hands when you go down there, whether it's meth labs or people shooting across the trails."
Cleanup of the secluded, but trashed spots along the river has gained some interest lately, with plans to bring the Virginia & Truckee Railway line down from Virginia City and through the canyon, alongside the Carson River.
Parks and Recreation Director Roger Moellendorf said he is working with the V&T commission to ensure compatibility of the rail line with bike and pedestrian trails on the river.
A historic train chugging along one side of the river with a walking path on the other may even add to the river's pull for hikers, he said. And a cleanup of the area to a more natural state will certainly increase the aesthetics of the train trip.
"It's such an attractive canyon," Moellendorf said, "it would be well worth it."
Adding to the tourism commission's push for Carson City to do something with the river is a state fund set up by a 2002 ballot initiative called Question 1. The fund supplies grants throughout Nevada, mostly for open space projects although several million dollars "that hasn't been claimed yet" is set aside specifically for river-oriented projects.
"This is something we believe will be a huge success, not just for tourists but the people that live here," Chrystal said.
"Everyone is going to grow. The idea is to grow in a way that enhances what we have."
The Nevada Commission on Tourism is suggesting the city split the $25,000 cost of a study on what should be done to enhance the river's attractiveness and figure out what projects might be grant material. A proposal for the study will likely go before Carson City supervisors next month.
n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at email@example.com or 881-1217.