YERINGTON — A vast area of land along the Walker River that for 152 years has been privately owned is expected to soon be transferred to the state to become Nevada’s newest park.
The newly minted 19-square-mile (49-square-kilometer) Walker River State Recreation Area is the largest single acquisition ever for Nevada state parks officials. It includes about 28 miles (45 kilometers) of waterfront land.
The property has been in private hands since before Nevada became a state, but state officials earlier this week notified Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Board of Examiners that lawmakers will soon be asked to approve an agreement to accept the land.
“This is going to be an incredible destination,” Sandoval said. “This is a generational opportunity.”
The transfer of the land that will become the state park is valued at more than $8 million and comes at no charge to the state. The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee will consider the request at its meeting on June 20.
The lands were acquired through the efforts of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to secure water rights to protect and preserve Walker Lake, which lies downstream.
Sandoval signed a bill into law on Monday providing funding for the new recreation area totaling $8 million in ongoing and one-time funds to open and operate the park.
The property includes prime fishing habitat and historical structures, including a stagecoach stop that predates Nevada statehood, Sandoval said. It’s located on the former Flying M, Rafter 7 and Pitchfork ranches and includes the Nine Mile area, which is known for trophy trout.
“One of our major goals is to protect that very pristine riparian environment,” said Eric Johnson, director of Nevada State Parks.
Although it won’t be Nevada’s largest state park, Johnson said it’s the most the state parks system has received and attempted to develop at one time.
In coming weeks, the state will complete the land-transfer process and begin developing the park.
Johnson said there will be areas designated for developed and primitive camping. There will be access to the river for boating and fishing. There will also be access to adjacent U.S. Bureau of Land Management property for off-highway vehicle use. He anticipates walking trails by the river and areas for equestrian use away from the water. There will also be hunting for waterfowl and upland birds in specified areas.
The state will begin designating public access areas as soon as fall of this year.