No mirage: Washoe a lake again

Washoe Lake is seen Thursday morning with water in it.

Washoe Lake is seen Thursday morning with water in it.

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After being dry for nearly a year, a couple months of intermittent snow and rain have turned Washoe Lake into a lake again.

“There’s not much,” said Washoe Lake State Park Supervisor Jennifer Dawson. “If you blink you might miss it.”

Those storms, coming one after another, have also built the best snowpack in the Sierra in more than five years. Dawson said she is encouraged by the snow pack.

“When spring hits and the snow actually melts, it will be exciting to see what our lake will look like,” she said. “It’s not going to be full but, at least, we won’t have to change the name of the park.”

Five years of drought sharply reduced or eliminated water flow in nearly all of the 11 small streams that feed Washoe Lake. With evaporation taking the last bit of surface water last May, the lake was officially no more.

A couple of weeks ago, however, some surface water was again visible from the crest of Interstate 580 at the north end of the valley.

Washoe Lake is vulnerable to dry spells because, even when completely full, it’s just 12 feet deep and five miles long. Dawson said it has gone dry several times since the park was established in 1977.

Little Washoe at the north end of the valley never went completely dry. With the snowfall this year, she said there were people actually ice skating on it. That stopped when the rains came over the past two weeks, melting the ice.

Washoe Lake is a popular destination because of its location between Reno and Carson City. The park offers camping, an equestrian center, hiking and other activities. And, with a little help from Mother Nature, the park should be able to offer boating and other water activities this coming summer.


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