Nevada’s newest state park opens near Yerington |

Nevada’s newest state park opens near Yerington

by Geoff Dornan
Walker River State Recreation Area, Nevada's newest state park, opened last week.
Geoff Dornan/Nevada Appeal

Saying, “welcome to a slice of Nevada heaven,” Gov Brian Sandoval on Wednesday christened Nevada’s newest state park, the Walker River Recreation Area outside of Yerington.

The park is being built on the 12,000 acres of land that was formerly three historic ranches, the Pitchfork, Rafter 7 and Flying M. They were purchased by the Walker River Conservancy that then deeded the land to the state, a gift Sandoval said was worth about $8 million.

The park includes 28 miles of the picturesque Walker River that will now be open to kayakers, canoes and fishermen who have long regarded that stretch of the river one of the best trout streams in Nevada.

Jeff Bryant of the conservancy said they actually paid “upward of $30 million” for the land but wanted it mostly for the water rights held by those ranches. The conservancy’s goal, according to Parks Director Eric Johnson, is to use that water to restore the water quality in Walker Lake to a level that can support native cutthroat trout.

Bryant said they’ll have about 60 staff working to restore native vegetation and the river in 2019.

He thanked Sandoval for his support of the project along with former Sen. Harry Reid, who he said “paved the way” for them to do the project.

Johnson said along with the gift of the park property, his department leveraged some $2.5 million in general fund money to raise federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money for a total budget of $4.2 million to actually build the park.

“This place hasn’t been accessible to the public for 100 years,” said Sandoval. “Now anybody can come and see this.”

He said this is the state’s first new park in 20 years and it was followed just by a couple of days with the Ice Age Park in Southern Nevada.

He was joined by state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who, although he couldn’t attend Wednesday, shepherded the legislation creating the park through the 2017 Legislature.

“This is a new treasure within our state park system and provides access to a region that was previously inaccessible to the general public,” he said. “This is a tremendously exciting day for people who love Nevada.”

Sandoval, who has visited every Nevada state park during his tenure as governor, said he looks forward to coming back to the Walker River park.

“In three months, I’ll have a lot more time on my hands and I’ll be coming out here,” he said — a reference to when he leaves office in January.

Wednesday was the park’s ribbon cutting ceremony. Its official grand opening day is Saturday.

At this point it’s still a work in progress as crews continue to install campsites at the Riverbend Campground and backhoes and other heavy equipment are grading roads and parking areas. It will include a group use area and group camping area, a day use area and future RV campground. The visitor’s center is already up and running and will provide a kitchen for rent as well as displays discussing the history of the park and its inhabitants including raptors, songbirds, coyotes and mountain lions

“It’s going to be a treasure for people who want to explore that area,” said Kieckhefer.