“Great People. Great Places” A Community to Match the Scenery: Douglas County, Nevada

Terrain & Topography 

This pocket of the world remains a place of hometown hospitality mixed with legendary spirit, stepping back in time with town celebrations seemingly out of a Norman Rockwell image. Douglas County is a place you’ll want to experience yourself. Stretching from the shores of Topaz Lake to Lake Tahoe, the county covers 751 square miles of land, home to approximately 48,000 residents. Elevations range from a low of 4,625 feet on the valley floor to a high of 9,500 feet at East Peak. Bordering the east of Douglas County, the Pine Nut Mountain Range holds plenty of foliage, Juniper trees and Pinyon Pine (which it receives its name from). More adventurous travelers can find plenty of rock formations to explore while trying to reach the highest peaks of the range. On the western side stretching more than 250 miles are the Sierra Nevada. 

old drawing of Genoa
Genoa NV

Fun Facts about Douglas County: 

  • Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America
  • Most of the state is high desert, but the Sierra Nevada has snow on it over half the year
  • Still in operation is Genoa Bar, Nevada’s oldest Thirst Parlor
  • Young George Ferris spent his time in the Carson Valley watching the motion of the big water wheel at Cradlebaugh Bridge on the Carson River. That experience served as inspiration to invent the Ferris Wheel
Mormon Station State Park, Genoa, NV

Birth of Douglas County 

November 25, 1861 Douglas County was founded, and upon Nevada’s statehood in 1864 it was preserved as one of the state’s original nine counties. The area is home to Mormon Station established in the spring of 1851; making it the oldest permanent settlement in Nevada. It was later renamed the town of Genoa, what it’s known as today. After Genoa, a number of communities developed along the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada as centers of ranching and farming. 

The area continued to expand with an influx of people rushing to hit the silver strike in Virginia City. The end of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad tracks in Minden, served as a catalyst pushing travelers into Carson Valley. 

Down the road from Genoa, Heinrich Friedrich Dangberg and his family built their ranch home and worked on developing the town of Minden from 1906 to 1940 (which got its name from Minden, Germany; the town near H.F. Dangberg’s German birthplace). Four generations of Dangbergs lived at the historic home, which still stands today as a nod to the essential chapters they wrote into the county.

In 1872, a young Wilhelm Lampe came over from Germany to work for the Dangberg Ranch in Minden. Eventually he bought land that accumulated over 300 acres by the 1930s, that was later sold because the location was ideal for taking advantage of town growth. Various parcels were sold to become what is now known as downtown Gardnerville, including Lampe Park.

Learn more about Carson Valley’s history.

Native American demonstrations at Genoa Western Heritage Days
Enjoy Native American demonstrations at Genoa Western Heritage Days every April.

Washoe Tribe

The first known inhabitants of the Lake Tahoe region are the Washoe Native American Indians, also classified as Great Basin Indians. The nomadic tribe occupied the Sierra Nevada lands and found the pine nut from the Pinyon Pine to be a dietary staple. A traditional pine nut harvest was their annual celebration which happened right before the winter move to a lower elevation. Washoe tribe members were well-known intricate basket weavers. Dat So La Lee is the most famous Native American basket weaver and today her baskets, estimated worth of one million dollars, can be viewed at the state museum. 

Sierra Canyon Trail, Genoa, Nevada
Sierra Canyon Trail, Genoa, Nevada. Photo by Abner Kingman

Outdoor Adventure

Topaz Lake, a reservoir on the Nevada-California border, sits 20-miles south of Gardnerville and is a close reach to the Toiyabe and Eldorado national forests. Popular for water sports, campers, birdwatchers and fishermen these shores are an outdoor enthusiast’s destination. During fishing season the lake is stocked by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Drop a line and catch a trophy trout, access the boat launch to enjoy water sports, or hop on your paddleboard and take advantage of the natural beauty surrounding this recreational spot.

Lake Tahoe sees no bounds to what activities are offered any time of the year. More than a backdrop, the mountains are a part of this alpine playground. Tahoe gets the best of each season offering winter sports, hiking/biking trails, boating, horseback riding, cruises, summer concerts, year-round EPIC Discovery activities, or a day on the golf green. Whatever day you have, watching the sunset disappear over the water of Lake Tahoe will be the perfect end. 

Douglas County offers trails for any and all ability levels. Carson Valley Trails Association works to provide access to public lands through recreational trail systems around the valley. To view trail locations/descriptions check out our visitor’s guide. Hikers can also take on one of the eight Lake Tahoe Rim Trail segments which provide panoramic views of both Tahoe and the Carson Valley. Visit Tahoe Rim Trail Association to learn more. 

You haven’t seen the landscape of Douglas County until you’ve viewed it from 10,000 feet above ground in a glider. Soaring is the art and science of using atmospheric thermals and weather patterns to stay overhead and travel long distances in a motorless aircraft. No motor, no problem. The area’s conditions make it one of the world’s best!

Learn more about outdoor recreation offered in the area. 

family style dinner at JT Basque
Enjoy family style dining at JT Basque Bar and Dining Room

Dining Experiences

Beginning in the mid 19th century, during the Gold Rush and expansion of the cattle industry, Basque immigration and settler influence increased within Douglas County; a natural fit that is still celebrated today. Voyaging from the Pyrenees of southern France to Gardnerville in 1947, Jean Lekumberry started a family restaurant in 1960. Thousands of miles from home, the Basque could find a warm meal and a place to call home in the happenings of town. Basque hotels, boarding houses, and restaurants dotted main street Gardnerville, and more than 50 years of operation later, Jean’s J.T. Basque Restaurant remains in the family and a town staple. 

Located on the historic Lampe land, Jacobs Family Berry Farm continues to honor the agricultural heritage of the area and share its history and sweet berries with so many. Visit the farm today, and you’ll see this busy “country-chic” place full of blackberries and raspberries for sale. 

A distinguishable landmark as you enter Minden are the silos. The Minden Flour Milling Co. and creamery brick was laid in 1906 and has since held a permanent place in the valley. Until recently, they remained close. Now you can grab a drink with a view and take a tour of the silos’ local flare upgrade.

In farm to flask style, Bently Heritage Estate Distillery crafts spirits made from locally-grown grains sourced from the Bently Ranch in Minden. Beginning the journey with sustainable grains on Bently land, and finishing it all at the estate, this process results in a glass of artistry.   

Want to know more great dining options? Check out the Top 15 places to Eat and Drink in Carson Valley.

Pony express rider at Dangberg Home Ranch
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Summer Festival at the historic Dangberg Ranch, in Minden, NV. Photo by Candice Vivien/Nevada Momentum

Arts & Culture 

Carson Valley pairs breathtaking nature with plenty of arts and culture happens. Home to Carson Valley Arts Council,whose mission it is to provide educational and experiential opportunities for our community, visitors can attend events in the disciplines of: visual, literary, music, dance and performance art. Use the Carson Valley Arts & Antiques Trail map to wonder into local art & antique galleries or step back in time as you walk through museums. East Fork Gallery offers the chance to shop regional artist’s work that is inspired by and reflects the legendary land around us. Carson Valley Community Theatre is a volunteer non-profit community theatre showcasing the local talent of the area in fantastic ‘don’t miss’ theatre productions.

 

Summer Concert in Minden Park

Modern Day

Current Douglas County employers lead in their respective fields of technology, manufacturing, and research. Tech entrepreneurs and advanced manufacturers located in the Carson Valley include Baker Hughes, North Sails and the Starbucks Roasting Plant and Distribution Center. With the proximity to Lake Tahoe, the tourism/leisure industry plays a major role in employment. Check out the Douglas County website for more information. 

The town never misses a reason to celebrate. Year ’round events include farmer’s markets, car shows, summer concerts, Candy Dance, Fall Festival, Coffin Races, Parade of Lights, Aviation Roundup Air Show, Carson Valley Days and more. Check out our signature events here

To experience the ‘can’t miss’ spots of today, use the Carson Valley Historic Walking/Driving Tour Map to guide your next visit. 

people dancing in Minden Park
Concert in the Park in Minden, NV. Photo by Candice Vivien/Nevada Momentum

Douglas County Values

In the small community of Carson Valley, there is a strong spirit of volunteerism. People knowing that their service matters, and by reaching out with even the smallest act of kindness, we believe it changes something for someone. This collective value that what affects you, affects me too, allows for plenty of service organizations, nonprofits and volunteer opportunities for anyone with any array of passions and talents to join. Giving back through avenues such as fundraisers, walks, and service organizations, the community feels a responsibility to continue to provide better for the people and towns here.

 

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