Western drought claims Washoe Lake; now completely dry | SierraSun.com

Western drought claims Washoe Lake; now completely dry

Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com
Washoe Lake is dry as seen here Wednesday, May 13th, 2015.
Brad Coman | Nevada Appeal

WASHOE VALLEY, Nev, — Washoe Lake is dry. With almost all of the 11 streams feeding the lake between Reno and Carson City reduced to a trickle over the past five years, evaporation has officially claimed the last of Washoe’s waters.

Jennifer Ramella of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Little Washoe at the main lake’s north end still has a bit of water in it, but that too is fading.

Washoe Lake Park Supervisor Jennifer Dawson said in an earlier interview the lake is vulnerable to dry spells because, even when full, it’s just 12 feet deep at its deepest point.

Since 10 of the 11 streams that feed the lake are on the west side, the lack of a snowpack in the Sierra range has left the lake with almost no water flowing in this winter.

She said at the time she was hoping for a wet winter to replenish the lake. That hasn’t happened.

Dawson said this isn’t the first time Washoe Lake, located a few miles north of Incline Village. has gone dry. It’s happened several times since Washoe Lake State Park was established in 1977.

The situation may create serious issues for the migratory waterfowl that rely on the lake and its wetlands for forage and nesting sites. The lakebed at the south end of the valley is off limits to dogs during nesting season but that area is now dry turf, not wetlands.

She said the good news is because the lake is so shallow, it doesn’t take a lot of rain to restore it.

When full, Washoe Lake is four miles long and two miles wide, pretty much filling the valley between Reno and Carson City.

Dawson and her staff are offering a drought program over the Memorial Day weekend to teach people why the lake went dry, the rain shadow effect and its impact on the lake. The program, to be offered both May 23 and May 24, runs from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Park officials are also getting creative with other activities such as horseback riding in the Virignia Range, ATV trails, hiking in the Scripps Wildlife Management Area and camping.