The new East Walker River State Recreation Area offers beautiful views, river kayaking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
One of Nevada’s newest state parks is devoted to ranching. Known as the East Walker River State Recreation Area, located approximately 14 miles south of Yerington, the park is dedicated to celebrating Western Nevada’s ranching culture while providing plenty of opportunities for Hobbies.
The park, along with Ice Age Fossil State Park near Las Vegas, are the only new state parks that have been created in the past two decades.
The East Walker River Recreation Area comprises nearly 30 miles of river corridor and 12,856 acres of land. It was created when the Walker Basin Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental group seeking to restore Walker Lake, purchased four historic ranches that line the East Walker River.
According to the group, the goal was to secure the ranches’ water rights in order to return more water to the lake, which has receded in recent decades. The group donated the land, estimated at over $8 million, to the state for the park.
The ranches included the Pitchfork, Nine Mile, Rafter 7 and Flying M ranches, whose roots date back over 125 years.
Currently, only the Pitchfork (originally known as Strosnider Ranch) and the Nine Mile are open to the public.
The Flying M Ranch, owned by Barron Hilton, remains under life lease and will become available for public use after his death. The Rafter 7 Ranch, which includes a large ranch house, is still being developed as a large group.
The initial phase of park development began on the Pitchfork Ranch property in 2018, with the opening of a visitor center (in an attractive stucco building that was the original ranch house) and completion campsites, some with RV hookups, and covered picnic areas.
Additionally, the park offers four one-bedroom, one-bathroom cabins (with additional sleeping quarters that can accommodate two twin bunks) at a location called Antelope Acres, which is about a mile and a half from the main entrance.
Cabins can be reserved using a form available on the State Park Service website parks.nv.gov/parks/walker-river. Cabins are $95 per night on weekdays and $120 on weekends.
A stop at the visitor center is your chance to ask park staff questions about the area, see a few exhibits, and pay the $5 day-use fee.
One of the best ways to enjoy the park is to kayak the East Walker River (bring or rent your own). Currently, visitors can float about six miles, but the route will eventually stretch to about 50 miles.
A good account of kayaking in the park recently appeared on Public Broadcasting’s Wild Nevada TV show at www.pbsreno.org/watch/wildnevada/s5-episode1/.
The park also offers trails as well as roads for off-road vehicles, horseback riding, and mountain bikes. Private working ranches surround the park property, so watch out for no trespassing signs.
To reach the East Walker River Recreation Area, travel south from Yerington on State Route 208 for approximately 8 miles, then head east on a marked, level dirt road for approximately 6 miles . The road can be washed out and a little rough for passenger cars, but easy for a higher clearance 4WD vehicle.