History of South Fork State Recreation Area

The history of the South Fork Dam project goes back to the 1938 Flood Control Act, when the U.S. Congress authorized feasibility studies for building dams and reservoirs on rivers such as the Humboldt. In 1983, the Nevada State Legislature passed Senate Bill 153, which allowed the State to issue State Revenue Bonds for the construction of South Fork Dam. The Dam was completed in 1988 using funding from the State of Nevada and Elko County residents.

The South Fork Reservoir operation adopted a “flow-in, flow-out” concept, thus protecting downstream water rights and minimizing the impacts to wildlife habitat in the Humboldt Sink.

South Fork Dam is designed as a rolled earth-filled embankment approximately 1,650 feet long, 90 feet high, with a 30-foot crest. A primary and secondary spillway regulates overflow. South Fork Reservoir is approximately three miles long and one to one and a half miles wide. The average depth is 30 to 35 feet. Storage capacity is 40,000 acre-feet.

The basic premise of South Fork Reservoir is storage of excess flows of the Upper Humboldt Drainage system to provide a recreational reservoir for water based recreation.

With constant water levels, South Fork Reservoir has become a highly productive fishery. Trophy size rainbow and brown trout, cutbow trout, smallmouth and largemouth black bass, wiper hybrid bass and channel catfish are the dominant game fish species in South Fork Reservoir. These species are thriving in what were productive and densely vegetated meadows. Most fish caught are of exceptional girth compared to length. The Nevada Division of State Parks, Nevada Division of Wildlife and Nevada Division of Water Resources share the operations and management of South Fork Reservoir.

South Fork Reservoir is situated on what was once the historic Tomera Ranch. Initial settlement of South Fork Valley occurred in 1867. This area offered a constant supply of water, and good travel routes between thriving mining camps. In 1983, the Tomera Ranch was sold to the State of Nevada by the Tomera family.

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