Carson Valley Birdwatching – Lahontan Audubon Society

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Carson Valley Visitors Authority, U.S. Highway 395 North, Gardnerville, Nevada, United States

WHAT TO EXPECT Carson Valley is an area of extensive agricultural fields and shrub-steppe south of Carson City. Jacks Valley occupies the northwestern edge of Carson Valley at the foot of the Carson Range. The entire area is good for raptors and waterfowl in winter. Guided tours of ranches and the Carson River are available during the Eagles and Agriculture event in late February (Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce at 800-727-7677). The Nature Conservancy (TNC) owns several hundred acres of wetlands southeast of Genoa. TNC anticipates that public access, trails, and potential expansion of holdings will be completed by 2008 (TNC Field Office at 775-322-4990). Located south of Genoa, David Walley's Hot Springs Resort can be productive for marsh birds. Carson Valley is a Nevada Important Bird Area.

Best time of year: Winter for raptors and waterfowl; spring and summer for nesting songbirds and Tricolored Blackbirds.

Notable species: For the entire area, wintering raptors include Bald and Golden Eagles, Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks, and Prairie Falcon. Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, and American Kestrel are resident. White-faced Ibis and a modest number of Sandhill Cranes may be observed. A colony of Tricolored Blackbirds breeds in the Carson Valley, the only known occurrence in Nevada.

Precautions: Travel in this birding area involves alternating between semi-rural roads and higher speed highways. The suggested route contains instances of doubling back designed to enhance viewing along roadsides and to provide safer access onto higher speed sections of the drive.

HOW TO GET THERE From the I-80 & US 395 interchange, take US 395 south approximately 27 miles to Carson City, Exit 43 North Carson Street/US 395 Business. Travel 6 additional miles south through Carson City to US 50 west/Lake Tahoe. Continue south from the US 395 & US 50 junction for 1.2 miles to Jacks Valley Road/SR 206.

POPULAR BIRDING ROUTE Turn right on Jacks Valley Road/SR 206, a stoplight 1.2 miles south of the US 395 & US 50 junction. Watch for raptors along the route, in particular Golden and Bald Eagles. At 6.1 miles check the farm ponds on the left. At the stop sign in Genoa (8.5 miles) turn left (east) onto Genoa Lane/SR 758. During winter, mainly in February, Bald Eagles feed on calving afterbirth in the pastures on both sides of the road. Trail head access to The Nature Conservancy wetlands, planned for 2008, is at 1.2 miles on the right. Continue a total of 3.7 miles from Genoa to US 395. Turn right (south) onto the highway, travel 1.8 miles to Muller Lane/SR 757, and turn right (west). Check the ranches on both sides of the road, especially for wintering raptors.At the stop sign (3.2 miles) turn right (north) onto Foothill Road/SR 206 and proceed 0.8 mile to David Walley's Hot Springs Resort (including deli cafe) on the right. Black Phoebe, Green Heron, and other marsh species have been observed on the grounds at the rear of the resort. Return to northbound Foothill Road (55 mph zone) from the resort's north exit. At about 0.3 miles the TNC wetlands, signaled by a grove of poplar trees, comes into view on the right. Continue north approximately 1 mile to Genoa.

The little town of Genoa, located at the interface of the Carson Valley and the steeply rising Carson Range, abounds in Nevada territorial history. It can be an interesting spot to find both mountain and valley birds. Mormon Station Historic State Park is situated on the northeast corner of the only intersection in town. A half block west of this intersection, on Nixon Street, you will see Genoa Park (restrooms). Spring through fall, both of these parks can be worth exploring for songbirds.

From Genoa Park, return to Foothill Road/SR 206, turn right (south), and drive 4.4 miles to Mottsville Lane/SR 207. Turn left (east) and check the ranches along both sides of the road. At the SR 88 stoplight (3.3 miles), turn right (south) and travel 1.5 miles to Centerville Lane/SR 756.

Turn right (west) and pull onto the right shoulder. The marsh across Centerville Lane/SR 756 on the southwest corner of this intersection should be checked in spring and summer for a breeding colony of Tricolored Blackbirds. Continue 2.8 miles west, checking the ranches on either side, to Foothill Road/SR 206. Turn right (north) and travel 1.3 miles to return to Mottsville Lane/SR 207, turn right (east) and return to the stoplight at SR 88. Turn left (north) onto SR 88, which will connect with US 395 at 1.9 miles to return to Reno (north) (Side Trips A, B, and C) or south to Minden.

Side Trip A Incline Village General Improvement District Wetlands Enhancement Facility: On the east side of US 395, this area of natural marshes and extensive evaporation ponds is often productive for a variety of migratory and nesting waterfowl and wetland birds. Permission to enter must be arranged in advance: Call the Incline Village Water Treatment Office (775- 832-1289).Northbound on US 395, turn right (east) on Johnson Lane (4.9 miles north of the intersection with SR 88). Travel 1.9 miles to Vicky Lane. Turn left (north) onto Vicky and drive north 2.3 miles, crossing Stephanie Lane at 1 mile, to the gate for the facility (last 0.2 mile is dirt). Bird the natural marshes and evaporation ponds by automobile and foot. Backtrack south 1.3 miles to Stephanie Lane. Turn right (west) onto Stephanie and travel 1.9 miles to US 395. Turn right (north) onto US 395 to return to Reno.

Side Trip B Carson River Park: This city park on the west bank of the Carson River in Carson City provides a paved parking lot (restrooms, handicapped access) and a short trail to a viewing platform overlooking the river. There is also an entry turnstile accessing the east side of Silver Saddle Ranch (Side Trip C), where trails to the left along the Carson River are good for songbirds and raptors. Traveling north through downtown Carson City, turn off US 395 to the right (east) at Fifth Street (stoplight) and proceed 2.4 miles to Carson River Road. Turn right (south) and go 2 miles to the paved parking lot on the right just before the river bridge.

Side Trip C Silver Saddle Ranch: This publicly owned ranch is comprised of 848 acres of open space along the west side of the Carson River. It may be accessed either through the turnstile at Carson River Park (Side Trip B) or by backtracking from the park 0.6 mile on Carson River Road to the ranch's main entrance on the left side (south) of the road. Proceed 0.5 mile on the dirt road to the main parking area by the ranch buildings. Follow the path between the buildings to the ranch house, where a 1.5-mile loop trail leads east between pastures to the fence line along the Carson River. Here the trail turns to the right and follows the river.

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