Rye Patch visitors enjoy camping, picnicking, fishing and water-skiing at the recreation area’s 22-mile long reservoir on the Humboldt River just west of Interstate 80. Located 22 miles north of Lovelock and 50 miles southwest of Winnemucca, Exit 129 will take you to the main park entrance, dam and campgrounds. Rye Patch is open year round. The reservoir has 72 miles of shoreline and 11,000 acres of water surface when full. The high water elevation is 4,135 feet.
|FACILITIES & AMENITIES
2505 Rye Patch Reservoir Road
Thousands of years ago the Rye Patch Reservoir area’s climate was colder and wetter than it is now, and a larger Humboldt River fed ancient Lake Lahontan, a body of water covering most of the Great Basin.
About 23,000 years ago, when the elevation of the ancient lake was lower than the present reservoir, large animals such as camels, horses, elephants and bison, as well as rabbits and squirrels, came to drink from springs in the riverbank. Some animals perished there, and their bones have been found at spring sites 14 miles north of Rye Patch Dam.
It is not known whether people lived in the area then, but evidence shows native people were camping along the river 8,000 years ago.
As the centuries passed, the climate grew warmer and drier. About 4,000 years ago the prehistoric Lake Lahontan had been reduced to what are now the Humboldt and Carson sinks. The river shrunk to its present size, and the area’s climate, topography and vegetation evolved to what they are today.
To survive in this semi-arid land, native people relied on plant gathering and hunting, often banding together on antelope and rabbit drives and fishing the river and lake. They lived in settlements of 25 to 50 people near the river in winter and roamed the desert in smaller groups in the summer.
The first white man to enter this region probably was Peter Skene Ogden, who trapped beaver in the area during 1829 for the Hudson Bay Company. Other trappers followed Ogden’s route, and soon the Humboldt Trail was established along the Humboldt River.
In the 1860s, the nearby towns of Unionville, Rochester and Star City boomed after the gold and silver strikes but died quickly. The town of Rye Patch, located close to the river, processed ore from the mines with a mill built in 1864. Named for a patch of wild rye along the railroad route, Rye Patch had a school, post office, boarding house and, after 1869, a station on the Central Pacific Railroad. The mill processed one million dollars’ worth of gold and silver. After it closed in 1877, the town declined.
In 1912, after three years of construction, the Pitt-Taylor Reservoirs were in service providing 49,000 acre-feet of water to the farmers in the Lovelock area. Construction of Rye Patch Dam began in 1935 and was completed the following year. The 75-foot-high, earth-filled dam was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to control floods and increase irrigation of agricultural land. The reservoir can hold more than 200,000 acre-feet of water.
Rye Patch Reservoir became a Nevada State Recreation Area in 1971 after being operated by Pershing County’s Water Conservation District and Parks Department.
Most park users visit during the warm months of late spring and summer. The area’s climate is typical of northern Nevada’s desert country. Rainfall is slight, averaging less than six inches annually. Clear, sunny skies are common; with summer daytime temperatures above 90 degrees F. Summer nighttime temperatures can drop as much as 40 degrees F. In mid-winter, daily highs average 40 degrees F and nighttime temperatures can drop below zero.
FACILITIES AND FEATURES
User Fees: Fees are posted and charged for day use, camping, group-use and boat launching.
Picnicking: There are two designated, day-use picnic areas. The river picnic area has tables, grills and restrooms. The west side group-use and picnic area has space for groups up to 100, with tables, grills, water and restrooms.
Camping: The river campground below the dam has 22 units, a restroom with flush toilets and hot showers. The campground on the reservoir’s west side has 25 units, a restroom with flush toilets and hot showers. There are also undeveloped campsites along the reservoir that can be reached by boat or primitive roads. Camping is allowed in these areas unless otherwise posted. A camping limit of 14 days in a 30-day period is enforced.
RV Dump Station: A sanitary dump station with potable water is located on the dam’s west side.
Boat Launching: A double-lane boat ramp and dock are next to the campground on the reservoir’s west side. A single-lane boat ramp and restroom are located 10 miles north at Pitt Taylor remote camping area. Pit Taylor can be accessed via Exit 138 of Hwy 80. Water is not available at Pit Taylor.
Fishing: Fishing for crappie, wipers, white bass, channel catfish, black bass and walleye is usually best in spring and early summer, with fall being a good season for catfish. Most anglers use worms or liver for catfish, minnows for wipers and jigs for crappie, walleye and bass. Bring your own bait since it often is not available in the area. A Nevada fishing license is required. See Health Warning from Department of Wildlife on consumption of fish.
Please join the majority of our visitors who maintain this area and preserve the fragile desert environment by observing these rules.
- Leave no trace (pack it in, pack it out).
- Stay on trails, drive on established roads and observe speed limits. Operators and vehicles must be licensed, and motorcyclists must wear protective headgear. ATVs are not allowed at the dam recreation site. No unregistered vehicles.
- Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet in length.
- Plants, animals, fossils other natural objects and artifacts are protected by state and federal laws.
- The boat speed limit is 5 mph within 100 feet of swimmers and beaches. Boating and fishing are prohibited in buoyed swimming areas.
- Fires are allowed only in designated grills and fireplaces.
- Fireworks or explosives are prohibited.
- Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. – 7 p.m.
- Fees must be paid to enter, use or occupy the park.
- Visitors are responsible for knowing park regulations.