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Welcome to Washoe Valley!

We hope you enjoy this site that celebrates all things Washoe Valley- a great community. The layout is blog-style so feel free to scroll down the page to discover recent and old posts. If you are looking for a particular topic, click on a Category or a tag under Popular Topics found in the right column. Older, archived articles are in the Archives. We welcome your input on in the comments for each article and your articles, questions and concerns. Happy browsing!

Local Civics Resources:

  1. Washoe Valley Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) Meet county officials and offer input on county business in Washoe Valley. Meets the 2nd Thursday at 6pm at South Valleys library. Agendas
  2. County Comissioner: Bob Lucey 775-328-2005.
  3.  County Commission Meetings. 2nd, 3rd and 4th Tuesdays at 10am at 1001 E 9th. Meeting Schedule and agendas. Agendas available Wednesday prior to next meeting.
  4. Nevada Senate District 16, Ben Kiekhefer,
  5. Nevada Assembly District 40, Al Kramer, map
  6. Nevada Assembly District 26, Lisa Krasner, map
  7. U.S. Congressional District 2, Mark Amodei: 775-686-5760: email
  8. US Senator Dean Heller: 775-686-5770; email
  9. US Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto email
  10. washoevalleyalliance.org Local organization for coordinating community development concerns.
  11. nextdoor.com Free neighbor to neighbor posts just for Washoe Valley residents. 485 members as of this date.

If you have other local resources that should be listed here, please email the editor.

updated: 5 Jan 2017

Celebrate Washoe Valley on May 13!

Development Meeting March 1st

Take your date out to dinner in Reno and also attend this meeting on the encroachment of Reno City Limits on Washoe Valley.

They haven’t posted an agenda for the meeting yet but I will post it (if) and when they do. If anyone has any other info, send it to washoevalley@gmail.com and I will post it.

Here’s some info Jill Mueller submitted on Nextdoor:

I don’t know if any of you made it to Wednesday’s meeting at the South Valleys Library where we heard Bob Lucey, our Commissioner here in Washoe Valley speak about what’s happening in Pleasant Valley, but I did. It was an eye opener!

In a nutshell, the City of Reno, by law, without allowing people in the area to have a voice, can annex land for sale with just a corner of it touching the City of Reno limits. And this is just what they are doing in Pleasant Valley all around the Hot Springs, so that they can rezone it for a land developer from California to buy it and plant houses and apartments.

There is also a law around the end of the city limits called a Sphere of Influence. That’s somthing like a 150′ leeway to help them add more later on.

City status has with it attached, sewers, city water, sidewalks and street lights, and most definently a way of life that is totally different from what we love here in Washoe Valley. Could even mean rezoning out here and no more horses.

I hope you can see that the saying: “Give them an inch and they will take a mile” would ultimately effect us too.

I believe we ALL need to stand up for our rural lifestyle here and SUPPORT THOSE PEOPLE IN PLEASANT VALLEY. our neighbors.

What we can do NOW is:
1. Call all our Senators and Assemblymen and tell them to look at the annexation law and change it so we have a voice in rural Nevada. and
2. Plan to just come to the Reno City Hall on March 1 at 6 PM to show support of the Pleasant Valley home owners. Bring Reno friends too if they believe in having Rural Nevada.

Commissioner Bob Lucey: Cell 775-501-0001, email blucey@washoecounty.us

Development Meeting Feb 15, 2017

There is a meeting for residents of Pleasant Valley and Washoe Valley scheduled for February 15 at 6pm at the South Valley’s Library at 15650 Wedge Parkway. This is a grass-roots residents meeting to discuss a zoning change for a planned development with a possible extension of the Reno City Limits.

The area to be developed is along the eastside of Hwy 395 between Rhodes Rd and Towne Road to the north. This is where Steamboat Hot Springs Resort is but that is apparently not involved.

Besides creeping high density development, our main concern is water and the proposals are very vague on that issue. It will probably be a good way for Washoe Valley residents to get up to speed in preparation to fight it here.

Ten years ago during the housing frenzy, developers were talking about needing water and sewer systems in Washoe Valley for their developments and that would mean annexation to Reno.

The website for the Pleasant Valley group is: saveruralnevada.com

They have the development documents available for pdf download on the site.

Here are the only mentions of water in the Rhodes Rd proposal:







The only “significant infrastructure improvements” the study cites is the new freeway so I don’t know how that provides adequate water. Considering that before this unusual winter, unappropriated water was disapearing as development is exploding in the area they should explain to us how this development is possible without taking water resources from current residents. I don’t know who would want to build a house on a hot springs but that is just me.

Hopefully you can attend the meeting.

Then and Now: South Valley

I’ve added a new page tab on the top right of the page for “Then and Now” comparison photos.

Original photo by Gus Bundy circa 1950.

Public Land Grab Gathering Steam

167 years ago, in 1850, my 2nd gr-grandparents and their toddler children came across Nevada in a wagon train. They passed by present day Winnemucca and turned southwest crossing the dreaded 40 mile desert, found the Carson River and followed it to Eagle Valley, where Carson City is today. They passed by Genoa which was just starting up as Nevada’s first settlement with a trading post and turned west to head up the West Fork of the Carson River to California. Along the way, near Winnemucca, my 2nd gr-grandfather was killed in a skirmish with the natives. He lies out there today.

Whether you have a story like mine or if you are like me and just enjoy the knowledge that we can jump in our SUV, bike, ATV, horse or boots and explore and recreate on endless mountains, valleys and playas, you appreciate Nevada’s Public Lands as one of the benefits to being an American.

This is why I take an owner’s interest in our Public Lands. I have noticed that our military is taking an additional 600,000 acres permanently near Fallon in addition to the huge Nellis complex near Las Vegas.  Our Representative in Congress, Mr. Amodei, is proposing to give our native tribes additional thousands of acres, which they can develop as they see fit. If I were them, I would industrialize it.

In addition to this, the new Congress passed a rule this week (Jan 3, 2017) that essentially designates federal land worthless and thus removing the financial cost of giving it away to corporations, cronies and elites for their own use. This is the first step in giving away our national heritage for the benefit of a few.

Of course, they will say that Americans in the West are demanding greater local control of their public lands. They want the land given to the states. Well, what happens is, the states find they can’t afford to maintain the lands and the feds did and also see the lands as a ATM machine. So they start selling off state lands to private interests as they have been doing in Idaho and Montana. So it just takes awhile for the private land grabbers to get what they want.

Whether you are Republican or Liberal, preservationist or recreationist, all Nevadans and Americans have an equal stake in preserving our Public Lands for the Public. In this era of diminishing rights and resources, we should hold this birthright as precious for the inspiration of future Americans.

Please join me in watching this situation and calling and writing Representative Amodei, Senators Cortez-Masto, and Heller, Gov Sandoval and your state Reps and let them know your feelings on the risk of losing our freedom of, well, freedom.



Washoe City Cemetery

I’ve had a request from a local historian to help with restoring the Washoe City Cemetery and honoring our past pioneers. Near as we can tell, a cleanup was last done in the 1962 by a 4H group with the help of the Washoe Valley Homemakers Club. We are currently researching the legal status of the ground, expert advice on how to go about it, and funding for such things as fencing and dumpsters. A local academic at UNR with experience in cemetery restoration has volunteered to help already. Volunteer labor will be needed and we are wondering if there will be interest in a local Washoe Valley/Pleasant Valley historical club to get together for this and other activities. Washoe Valley especially has a very rich and interesting history that should be recognized and nurtured. If you are interested, write me at washoevalley@gmail.com and I’ll start creating a list of folks who might be interested.

The cemetery dates from the time of the Comstock, about 1860, and from when Washoe City was the County Seat and the leading “City” in Washoe Valley and Truckee Meadows. I noticed one marker from as recent as 1974. Members of several families prominent in the area’s settlement and development are buried there. I’ll keep you posted on developments with this project.

A Little Washoe City History

Every so often we like to remind locals of the great western history we have all around us in Washoe Valley. This ranges from the ancient natives that found plentiful water and food here on the edge of the Nevada desert, through Mormon settlement, farming and ranching, quartz milling and logging for the fabulous Comstock Lode to the 1940s when the famous used our dude ranches for their quickie divorces.

This article will remind our readers of the interesting history of Washoe City. Today, it exists as a sleepy  for commercial district on the north side of the valley bisected by old Highway 395. One wonders why there was a town there at all. Probably because it was at a crossroads. Before the railroads but after the silver discovery at Virginia City, many newcomers from Northern California (and there were many, with the Virginia City silver strike first assayed and authenticated in Nevada City, California) came through the Henness Pass north of Truckee and into the Truckee Meadows to this spot. The decision was made to head south to the farms, ranches, and settlements of Washoe and Eagle Valleys to the south or go directly to Virginia City via the new Ophir Road. This road, began as the shortest walking trail between two points, soon was ground into existence by the increasing traffic by foot, beast and wagon.

Habitation soon increased with the industrialization of the Virginia City mines. As silver and gold ore Washoe Citypiled up the need for processing was urgent. Water and wood for fuel were nonexistent in Virginia City and the Comstock. Soon, trains of freight wagons were hauling loads of ore down the Ophir Road to Washoe City where there was abundant wood and water. At one time there were perhaps 10 mills around the City and a total of 18 in Washoe Valley. Vast lumber operations began to denude the western hills of timber for fuel, building and mine timbers.

Shops, liveries and accommodations developed until the town consisted of several substantial buildings including Masonic and Odd Fellows Halls, Methodist Church, schools and “good” hotels. In the brief time of state organization and the coming of the transcontinental railroad in 1865, the town was even the Washoe County Seat complete with a brick courthouse. Permanent population peaked at about 700.

After Reno was established and became a major stop on the railroad, the county seat was moved there. Shortly thereafter in 1870, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad was completed from Virginia City to Reno. This allowed the Comstock ore to be economically transported to the Carson River Canyon east of Carson City. Several huge mills were built there along the river and this killed the milling business in Washoe Valley. These two events began the towns decline in population and importance. Rather than a source of labor and materials, the Washoe Valley towns of Mill City, Franktown, Ophir and Washoe City became merely lumber and agricultural loading stations for the railroad.

Washoe City fell into a long decline, shifting to a mostly residential existence. By 1875 the Reno newspaper noted that it was a “deserted village” made up of a post office, store and saloon. By 1892, there were 51 registered voters.

Like some other western settlements,  the town’s monicker could also be the “The Town That Wouldn’t Die” and never became a deserted “ghosttown like its neighbors. Over the years, especially in the Nevada mining excitement of 1901-1910, various small mines and mills operated in the the nearby hills providing employment. Recreation at Washoe Lake provided some income, and the school and saloon remained.

In the 1930’s, the ever innovative Nevada Legislature created the 6 week residency requirement for divorce stimulating the state economy. The hurried, desperate and discrete from all over the country made a beeline for Reno and entertainments arose around the city. Some stayed in hotels in Reno, but others, especially the wealthy, preferred a western adventure thrown in and stayed at one of several dude ranches in Washoe Valley. These came complete with other newly liberated guests, swimming pools, horseback rides and wranglers. Also included were amusing excursions to the watering holes of Washoe City, Carson City and Virginia City. This business lasted into the 1950s as generally more liberal divorce laws became the norm around the country and Las Vegas arose in prominence.

Ironically, one of the more consistent activities in the sleepy town has surrounded the Washoe City Cemetery. As local pioneers have passed on, they have been interred there up to the 1960s. Located just east of the Chocolate Factory and west of the old Cattleman’s Restaurant (now animal rescue), it lies in decay. Other signs of Washoe City’s heyday are the stone building on the east side at the old garden store, The V&T bridge abutements across the highway and Winters Mansion to the west. A bronze plaque noting the history of the town is located at the entrance to the Washoe Estates subdivision.

Digging a Tunnel from Washoe Valley To Tahoe

A dam at the north end of the valley, at the head of Pagni Canyon, rising 50 feet and 248 feet long would create a “Lake Washoe” filling Washoe Valley with water from a massive pipe tunneled through the Carson Range into Lake Tahoe. The outlet would be at Franktown Creek and the fall of water would power a large Hydropower plant. Excess water would be transported to the Carson River Canyon east of Carson City via a canal for storage and irrigation behind a new dam there.

All this was seriously considered in 1953 by state and federal engineers to solve Western Nevada’s water and power crisis. Writer Basil Woon of the Nevada State Journal chronicled the promise and controversy of the project in a series of articles for the paper.

The tunnel was part of a massive regional project to also tame the tempermental Truckee by channelizing the river between it’s outlet at Tahoe City and Donner Lake. Prosser Dam would also be raised and other improvements would be made east of Sparks along with a power plant there.

The fear in 1953, with a Reno population at 32,000, was that western Nevada’s growth would soon be stalled by a lack of critical resources. It was predicted that by the year 2000 the Reno population would be 70,000 and that current water resources would be woefully inadequate requiring severe rationing. A lack of electrical power would prohibit industrial and commercial development. As it turned out, the population was 226,000 in 2010 and growing. The Reno/Sparks Metro area was 425,000 in 2010. They grossly overestimated the need and underestimated the growth! Apparently the water engineers in the interim have done a great job providing us with adequate water supplies.

This was a time of great infrastructure development in the American West. The Bureau of Reclamation became a huge bureaucracy bestowing upon western towns and rural residents the promise of prosperity with the development of water projects for irrigation and electric power.  Hundreds of dams, canals and power plants were built throughout the west. Nearly every area was examined for it’s development potential.

Back in Washoe Valley, Woon chronicled the local reaction to the plan and the potential changes to the lush valley of pastoral ranches. Locals were terrified that their lifestyles and livelihoods would be destroyed and our historical legacy lost. Residents quickly organized and met with the engineers.

As usual in our society, there were nearly as many for the proposal as those against. The threat to Bower’s Mansion came up, now a popular park. The engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation office in Carson City, H. A. Hunt, assured the residents the resource would be spared, presumably by a dike. The Winters Mansion on the north end, some saying it was an even more important landmark, pre-dating Bowers, was another matter. The engineer thought the waters would be “mighty close”. Washoe City would be abandoned and inundated. This fate engulfed several towns and historic sites larger in the west.

Local residents, artists, ranchers, dude ranch owners, gentleman ranchers and families with many generations of history stood to lose everything. Dr. T. S. Clarke, prominent Reno eye doctor and vigorous opponent, stated, “It would ruin our place and nullify all the work and expense we have gone to; the fields and farm would go and we would be left with nothing but a house on a lake.” Even in 1953 a working farm was considered by practical minds more attractive than a lake house, apparently. Proponents envisioned public beaches and a resort hotel in addition to plentiful power. In the end, the tunnel project was shelved. Maybe it was the public resistance, the historical significance or there were plenty of other potential projects to pursue.

Nearly all the other proposals also fell by the wayside except the channeling of the Truckee through Reno and Sparks and the building of Stampede Reservoir. This, added with Prosser and Boca were to supply a power plant in Verdi which was never built.

Now, with our massive population and the recruitment of major industry along with having squeezed nearly every drop out of every other water resource, will the Tahoe Tunnel and Lake Washoe proposal return to wet the imagination of planners?

Washoe Valley Sunset by Janis Knight

janis knight 2 feb 16

The Washoe City Cabin

This is an update of an article originally published on this site in 2012.

I have been asked several times about the history of the dilapidated log cabin on hwy 395 in Washoe City. This is the one on the north side of the highway in the old Cattlemen’s Restaurant parking lot. Word of mouth was that it was built as a movie set in the old days and is not an authentic original home.
I did some light research in the old papers and only found one circuitous reference so far but it backs up the story. In November 1959 a letter to the editor was published in the form of a eulogy to a Joe Farnsworth. Joe was apparently a long time resident and ex Virginia City cop and had quite a knowledge of the local surroundings and goings-on. The letter writer related the story of the cabin as he heard it from Joe. “Son, that cabin was put up by a movie company in the war years. Why they even installed electric lights so they could take night pictures. I watched them several times and they even invited me to be an extra with good pay, because I looked more western than any of those who were taking a part in the picture. Anyhow, I refused because I was never cut out to be an actor.”

Last week I was contacted by Rhonda G. Wait who has some family photos of the cabin. These photos taken circa 1944-45 seem to show that someone actually lived in the cabin at some point. There is an addition built on, a different overhang on the porch, curtains and a driveway gate. Rhonda’s photos are of her grandparents, Fern and George Hillyard and her aunt, Barbara Hillyard.img340 (2)
img338 (2)
wv cabin montage croppedPhotos: Top: The cabin from Hwy 395 looking North.

Middle: Looking Northwest.

Bottom: Left: A “Now and Then”. Middle: Barbara with what appears to be Hwy 395 and west Washoe Valley in the background, looking south. Right: George and Barbara at an unknown location. It’s pretty high- Geiger Grade?

Photo credit: Fern I. (Hall) Hillyard