Shortly after irrigation season starts, generally on April 1, water will start flowing into a shallow impression in the ground off of Carson River Road, turning what is now rolling pasture back into one of the city's few wetlands.
Created two years ago to partially replace wetlands near Lompa Lane that were supplanted by the Carson Freeway, 27 acres of the Silver Saddle Ranch in east Carson City is turned into a pond and marsh each spring with irrigation water from the Mexican Ditch.
How big the wetlands become and how long they stay depends on the type of water year Northern Nevada has, and on how parched the soil is.
Silver Saddle Ranch caretaker Gary Gumienny said last year was pretty dry but in 2003, the wetlands' first year, the place was magnificent.
"There were days when 100 pelicans would be out here at once," he said.
All manner of ducks and other waterfowl also take advantage the water when it's there.
On Friday, some meltoff from last week's snowfall had collected into a small, shallow pool in the man-made pond. Two Canadian geese had found it and were making the most of the seasonal wetlands.
Much of the natural waterfowl land displaced by the freeway was re-established in Washoe Valley.
The spot on the Silver Saddle Ranch, a former ranch that is now open to the public under the direction of Carson City and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, was chosen even though it's a seasonal site that must be fed by irrigation water because, "we wanted to keep some of them (wetlands) in our basin," said Deputy City Engineer John Flansberg.
Carson City owns junior water rights on the Mexican Ditch that can be used early in the irrigation season. The city directs water into the wetlands for nine days, usually ending on April 15, said Public Works Operations Manager Tom Hoffert.
Depending on the ground conditions, a maximum of 12 inches will fill the wetlands by April 15. After that, how long into the summer they will stick around depends on daytime temperatures.
Through the rest of the year, Hoffert said, the wetlands can again become wet, depending on precipitation but the best time for a glimpse of the waterfowl is early spring, just after irrigation season starts.
The wetlands are just north of Carson River Road.
n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at email@example.com or 881-1217