Explore Your Nevada

During the past biennium, Governor Brian Sandoval set out on a personal challenge to visit every state park in Nevada to learn about the recreational opportunities, history, natural resources and cultural highlights that these diverse locations have to offer to residents and visitors alike. What he found surprised and invigorated him. The Governor discovered true treasures and saw first-hand why state park visitation continues to rise. It was at the successful conclusion of his goal that the Governor made a commitment to nurture, grow and let the world know about Nevada’s state parks.

That is why during his 2017 State of the State address, Governor Sandoval brought forward the Explore Your Nevada initiative to open the door to more state park adventures and strengthen the park system for now and generations to come.

A new state recreation area

Rafter 7 at the proposed Walker River State Recreation Area

The foundation of the Explore Your Nevada initiative is the unprecedented donation of properties that together will be known as the Walker River State Recreation Area. These three historic properties in west central Nevada will bring in excess of 12,000 acres into public use while providing access to 28 miles of the pristine and picturesque East Walker River for the first time in many, many generations. Together with historic structures and valuable wildlife habitat, what will become four distinct park units – Pitchfork, Rafter 7, Flying M and Nine Mile – are set to offer extraordinary opportunities for camping, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, nature study, outdoor education and, of course, fishing. 

Map of the Walker River State Recreation Area No Hunt Zones
Flying M Morgan Unit Hunting Map

During 2016, the State’s Executive Branch explored this possible addition to the state park system after a non-profit organization approached the state with the extraordinary offer to donate several large, former ranches nestled in the celebrated East Walker River corridor. These ranches were purchased from willing sellers by the Walker Basin Restoration Program in order to increase in-stream flows to Walker Lake through changes in surface water use. After extensive due diligence, it was determined that acceptance of these properties was indeed in the best interest of Nevada and its residents. The donor will transfer the land to the state with no acquisition costs and the Governor has proposed through his initiative and budget the funding to provide baseline staffing and the first phase of facilities for camping, fishing access, hiking trails, full hook-up and primitive campsites and even rental cabins. Future opportunities at these four park units abound, including retreat and group use facilities, equestrian activities, additional campsites – including those specifically for OHV users -- more cabins, competitive archery sites, and the list goes on and on.

A new state park

The Governor’s desire to see improvements in the park system does not begin and end with the fabulous Walker River State Recreation Area. The Explore Your Nevada initiative extends to seeing that two properties currently in state ownership receive the attention they deserve.

Map of the proposed Tule Spring State Park

The first is the proposal to establish Ice Age Fossils State Park in Clark County. The 315-acre park will be on unimproved state-owned land assigned to Nevada State Parks. The site of the proposed new state park is rich in paleontological resources, and is an area of historical importance in Clark County and the state. Located adjacent to the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, the site contains the richest concentration of paleontological resources. Fossils of a wide variety of Ice Age animals have been discovered on this site such as mammoths, camels, bison, horses, sloth and Dire wolves. State Parks has worked closely with paleontologists from UNLV to document fossil findings and to understand the history of the site. A park on this site will both make the area more accessible to the public and allow for educational and interpretive programming that explains the rarity of this site, while also providing the staff and facilities that will help provide security to these paleontological treasures.

The 'big dig" at Tule Springs

Ice Age Fossils State Park is the site of the “Big Dig,” conducted in 1962-63, that brought together researchers of multiple disciplines (geologists, paleontologists and archeologists) from five renowned institutions to determine if there was an overlap between the last period of mega fauna and the first evidence of early people. The area is still rich in fossils and evidence of the historic dig site is prominent. The state’s proposed commitment as part of the Explore Your Nevada initiative will afford visitors the opportunity to walk through the area and see evidence of these prehistoric creatures, while also providing for the protection of precious resources that, if left unprotected, may be lost for all time.

Existing parks get new amenities

The final aspect of the Explore Your Nevada initiative recognizes how well the staff and management of Nevada State Parks know their park visitors. These dedicated staff constantly interact with and evaluate the wishes of state parks guests, and this initiative will help put into place high priority elements of the Division of State Parks strategic plan for the current park system. These improvements will be at state parks across the Silver State and will include the addition of full hook-up campsites at seven existing parks, pull-through campsites at ten existing parks, select Wi-Fi enabled campgrounds and centralized hot spots at eight existing parks, cabins at Wild Horse State Recreation Area and a state park staff presence at Van Sickle Bi-State Park. This response to customer demand is essential for Nevada State Parks to stay competitive and relevant in the outdoor recreation market and it is the goal of the Governor’s Explore Your Nevada initiative to see the state achieve a standard, and have the organizational capacity and resources necessary, to make Nevada a leader among state park systems across the country.

  Additions to Existing State Park Units
Full Hook-Up Campsites Dayton, Fort Churchill, Kershaw-Ryan, South Fork, Valley of Fire, Ward Charcoal Ovens, Washoe Lake
Pull-Through Campsites Beaver Dam, Berlin-Icthyosaur, Echo Canyon, Fort Churchill, Rye Patch, South Fork, Spring Valley, Valley of Fire, Washoe Lake, Wildhorse
Wi-Fi Enabled Locations Berlin-Ichthyosaur, Echo Canyon, Elgin Schoolhouse, Rye Patch, Spring Valley, Valley of Fire, Washoe Lake, Wildhorse
Equestrian Facilities Lahontan State Recreation Area
Rental Cabins Wildhorse State Recreation Area
Enhanced Staffing at Current Park Units Valley of Fire, Spring Mountain Ranch, Big Bend, Lahontan, 
Van Sickle Bi-State, Eastern Region

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