Friday, January 05, 2007
Washoe Valley's Deadman's Creek Trail
There is a grave at Deadman’s Creek Trail near Washoe Lake. I’m not sure if anyone is buried there—or who it is—but there is a small wooden cross, flowers, and cards marking the site.
But the grave isn’t why anyone would want to visit Deadman’s Creek Trail, part of Washoe Lake State Park. The reason to seek out this easily overlooked trail is because it passes through a peaceful, little oasis of vegetation that borders a spring-fed creek before leading to a gazebo that offers some of the best views of the area.
Located directly east of the main entrance to Washoe Lake State Park, which is 10 miles north of Carson City, the trail doesn’t seem part of the state park because it’s on the other side of East Lake Boulevard from the rest of the park.
The trailhead, which is marked with a wooden sign, can be found adjacent to a small, paved parking lot. After passing the mysterious gravesite, the trail winds through the bitterbrush and sagebrush for a few feet before crossing a small wooden bridge.
From there, it meanders uphill alongside a ribbon of thick vegetation that includes cattails, various grasses and shrubs. If you look closely, you can see evidence of a fire that damaged much of this riparian area in 1999.
Fortunately, nature has a way of rebounding so much of the native foliage has returned. While not particularly large, this refuge is home to a number of migrating birds and nesting species, according to the Lahontan Audubon Society.
Birds that have been sited in the area include long-eared and great horned owls, Cooper’s Hawks, Black-billed Magpies, Lazuli Buntings, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, wrens and sparrows. During our recent visit, we weren’t knowledgeable enough to know the names of the birds but heard and saw plenty hopping through the brush.
The sounds, however, are perhaps the most pleasurable aspects of the hike. The calm gurgling of the spring-fed creek, the faint chirping of the birds, the buzzing of bees and wasps and the rustling of unseen things bring the nature area to life.
The trail parallels the creek and vegetation for about a quarter mile before beginning a steep climb above the growth. As you continue onward, it’s best to periodically look back, toward the lake, to enjoy the marvelous views.
The path zigzags up the hill. In several places, wooden steps have been built into the hillside to assist you during the climb and to show you where the trail is in case you’ve wandered off of it.
If you look to the east, you can see the rising hills of the Virginia Range. Brown and somewhat barren, particularly at this time of year, the range is crisscrossed by several dirt roads and trails—popular with off road vehicle riders.
To the west is Washoe Lake, a remnant of a prehistoric inland sea that once covered much of Nevada. In the distance, you can see the majestic Sierra Nevada range including Slide Mountain.
The trail continues to climb before reaching the crest of a hill. It ends at a picturesque wooden gazebo that overlooks the lake and Washoe Valley. This is a great spot to stand for a moment, feel the breeze on your face, and enjoy the views. Then, it’s back on the trail for the return walk to the car.
Since the entire hike is only about a mile roundtrip, the Deadman’s Creek Trail is a fine, short, easy day hike that can be done in less than an hour.
For more information contact Washoe Lake State Park, 4855 East Lake Blvd., Carson City, NV 89704, 775-687-4319, www.parks.nv.gov.