Deadman’s Creek Trail offers pristine look at oasis
One of the lesser known gems at Washoe Lake State Park, located about 10 miles north of Carson City, is Deadman’s Creek Trail.
Located directly east of the park’s main entrance, the trail doesn’t even seem part of the park because it’s on the other side of East Lake Boulevard.
But it’s worth seeking out this easily overlooked trail because it passes through a peaceful, little oasis of vegetation bordering a spring-fed creek before leading to a gazebo that offers some of the best views of the area.
The trailhead, which is marked with a wooden sign, can be found adjacent to a small, paved parking lot. The trail winds through the bitterbrush and sagebrush for a few feet before crossing a small wooden bridge.
From there, it meanders uphill alongside a ribbon of thick vegetation that includes cattails, various grasses and shrubs. If you look closely, you can see evidence of recent fires that damaged much of this riparian area.
Fortunately, nature has a way of rebounding so much of the native foliage has returned. While not particularly large, this refuge is home to a number of migrating birds and nesting species, according to the Lahontan Audubon Society.
Birds that have been sited in the area include long-eared and great horned owls, Cooper’s Hawks, Black-billed Magpies, Lazuli Buntings, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, wrens and sparrows, all of which can be heard flitting around in the vegetation.
The sounds, in fact, are among the most pleasurable aspects of the hike. The calm gurgling of the spring-fed creek, the faint chirping of the birds, the buzzing of bees and wasps and the rustling of unseen things bring the nature area to life.
The trail parallels the creek and vegetation for about a quarter mile before beginning a steep climb above the growth. As you continue onward, it’s best to periodically look back, toward the lake, to enjoy the marvelous views.
The path, which is never particularly well marked, zigzags up the hill. In several places, wooden steps have been built into the hillside to assist you during the climb and to show you where the trail is in case you’ve wandered off of it.
If you look to the east, you can see the rising hills of the Virginia Range. Brown and somewhat barren, particularly in the fall and early winter, the range is crisscrossed by several dirt roads and trails popular with off road vehicle riders.
To the west is Washoe Lake, a remnant of a prehistoric inland sea that once covered much of Nevada. In the distance, you can see the majestic Sierra Nevada range including Slide Mountain.
The trail continues to climb before reaching the crest of a hill. It ends at a picturesque wooden gazebo that overlooks the lake and Washoe Valley. This is a great spot to stand for a moment, feel the breeze on your face, and enjoy the views. Then, it’s back on the trail for the return walk to the car.
Since the entire hike is only about a mile roundtrip, the Deadman’s Creek Trail is a fine, short, easy day hike that can be done in less than an hour.
For more information contact Washoe Lake State Park, 4855 East Lake Blvd., Carson City, NV 89704, 775-687-4319, http://www.parks.nv.gov.
Richard Moreno has a passion for Nevada, its towns and people.