Fish Springs name evolved from the early years
How did Fish Springs get its name? It varies by who you ask. Some of the early settlers didn’t call it Fish Springs. One elderly woman who lived across the street from Gardnerville Elementary School said, “We always called it ‘Purple Valley’ because at sunset the Pine Nut Mountains turn purple.”
She’s right about that. My favorite thing to do in the evening is to relax in the hot tub with my husband and watch the Pine Nut Mountains turn purple as the sun sets.
Fish Spring Flat is the name on old maps, and that sounds logical since this is a high-desert (5,200 feet elevation), flat valley that’s surrounded by rolling hills on the west and the Pine Nut Mountains on the east. In the 1880s the federal al government used horses and wagons to map out the sections of the 5-mile-long, 2-mile-wide area.
The original spring of Fish Spring Flat is located near some large cottonwood trees a little east of the Fish Springs fire station. Water flowed there year-round up until about 15 years ago. Fish used to live there, too.
According to Stoddard Jacobsen, who was born in Fish Spring Flat, “In the old days, city folks would hitch up their wagons and ride out to the country for a picnic by the spring and in the shade of the cottonwood trees.”
Old-timer Larry Cowden said that Jacobsen called this valley Fish Springs.
A slang name we’ve heard some people call Fish Spring Flat is “Carp Flat.” Early settler Friz Elges dug out a reservoir and stocked it with carp. Perhaps that’s why some residents call it that fishy name. Permanent homesteaders started settling this valley around the middle of the century. Lots of Basque sheepherders also tended their flocks here.
Early resident Don Hale told me, “About 90 years ago some sheepherder jokers put goldfish in the creek.”
Another early settler said it was a Basque sheepherder who was working for Stoddard Jacobsen who installed the goldfish.
Louise Howes lives along the Pine Nut Creek, and some years ago she told me she was watering her backyard fruit trees when she dumped a little trout into the basin of an apple tree. She was using water buckets from the creek.
Bonnie and Ray Jones moved to Fish Springs in 1976. Ray said he heard that Fish Springs got its name from an old lady who caught a lot of fingerling fish. She used a net to get them out of the Carson River, and then she dumped them in the Fish Springs pond. They were called fingerling when fishermen like her measured them against the length of their fingers.
Gene Hammerlun moved to Fish Springs in 1976, when there were only about 10 houses there. He bought land where the Pine Nut Creek runs right through his yard. He gets the runoff from the snow-covered Pine Nut Mountains.
Lots of animals frequent his yard where there is creek water available for them to drink. Wild horses, bobcats, coyotes and rabbits gather beneath his big old trees. Robins, magpies, red-tailed hawks, blue jays, eagles and great-horned owls frequent the 100-year-old cottonwood trees. Hammerlun built owl boxes, and every year baby owls are born. In February 2006 two groups of owls were hatched.
There is actually only one spring, so its name should be Fish Spring, not Fish Springs. The people who live here vow to protect the valley’s rugged open space, natural beauty and rural character. This is untamed country, and Fish Springers like it that way – whether they call it Fish Springs or Fish Spring Flat.