The Desert Gem: How Topaz Lake Got its Name

Today the water of Topaz Lake is praised by fisherman and enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts alike. Truly a desert gem, lake Topaz is framed by the Eastern Sierra and sits in close proximity to Toiyabe and Eldorado national forests. The Lake provides Carson Valley with another treasured aspect of our fun, adventure and rugged spirit. 

Owned by the Walker River Irrigation District (WRID) since 1919, the reservoir stores water that provides for regional agricultural use. Originally, the land was known as “Alkali Lake”. There’s truth in the suggestion that words carry associations to what they denote, and that became the baseline for how Topaz received its new name. 

The former name of the reservoir was of public concern. Area locals knew how words played in shaping thought and “Alkali Lake” was a misnomer, creating a public prejudice against the lake and area. In fact, the reservoir waters were not affected by alkali. Language harnesses the ability to determine the power of a place, and according to the WRID board meeting, with a  name like “Alkali Lake”, the land wouldn’t be the state resource it had the potential to become, because with that name the area would not flourish. That valid concern was expressed and acted upon at a Walker River Irrigation District board meeting. On February 11, 1921 the WRID board of directors, by resolution, favored the name change to Topaz Lake.

In what looks like a 1920’s public relations practice, a single word changed the bias of a place. Once the new name took hold, settlers traveling east to west passed other lakes gravitating toward the ‘Topaz’ name.

These days Topaz Lake is known for its fishing, boating, camping, water sports and as an outdoor recreation access point. Looking for something to do on the water? Beginning in February 2021, fishing season runs year round. Topaz is regularly stocked with trophy trout, so come catch a prize! Want to venture into the mountains? Take the trails of Switchback Mountain on an ATV/OHV to check out more views of Topaz and stop into Topaz Lodge Casino to fuel up for your day ahead.  

Topaz Lake NV - Photo by Sharrie and John Flaherty

Some places draw attention with their name, and Topaz certainly does that, but you’ll be drawn in by more; one early morning look at the glossy lake or a cast of your line and you’ll be hooked for life.


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Topaz name change resolution

Topaz name change resolution

Statutes of the State of Nevada – passed at the Special Session of the Legislature 1920








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