Map of Washoe Lake
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Washoe Lake is a very shallow, productive water
body located between Reno and Carson City. The area is comprised of Big Washoe Lake,
Little Washoe Lake, and a large marsh (Scripps Wildlife Management Area)
connecting the two. The shallowness of
Big Washoe Lake and the strong daily winds account for its extreme turbidity. Washoe Lake has fallen victim to extensive
droughts in the past, which left the big lake completely dry multiple times
over the past 20 years.
Washoe Lake covers an area of 5,800 acres when full and the big
lake has a maximum depth of 12 feet. It is managed as a warm water fishery and
contains white bass, Sacramento perch, channel catfish, brown bullhead, carp,
wipers (white bass x striped bass hybrid), and white crappie. Fishing is best in late spring, early summer,
and early fall. Usually late afternoon
is the best time in the spring and fall, while the best fishing in summer
occurs at night when the water temperature cools down. White bass anglers are most successful in
August and September. Fishing for
channel catfish is also popular with chicken livers and nightcrawlers the most
productive baits. Birding is a very
popular recreation, with many different species occurring seasonally and having
several marshy areas to observe them. Washoe
Lake State Park offers boat launching ramps (big and little lakes), picnic
areas, campsites, and bathroom facilities.
No restrictions on boats, however, at Washoe Lake State Park Boat Ramps: All boat harbors and other areas designated by buoys are zones in which a vessel must be operated at a speed that leaves a flat wake, but in no case may a vessel be operated at a speed in excess of 5 nautical miles per hour. Scripps Wildlife Management Area is closed to all trespass February 1 through June 30. Be wary of changing weather conditions. Washoe Valley regularly experiences high winds in the afternoons, which can pose a hazard to unsuspecting boaters.
Due to elevated methylmercury levels, the Nevada State Health Division has issued a health advisory that recommends no consumption of white bass from Little and Big Washoe lakes.
Washoe Lake is located along U.S. 395 in Washoe Valley between Carson City and Reno. The park can be accessed by turning onto East Lake Blvd from US 395, the newest boat launch is located at the southeast corner of the lake. The old north boat launch, which is a smaller facility, is located at the south end of Lakeshore Drive. From East Lake Blvd, turn west onto Lakeshore Drive, then head south until you reach the park entrance. Little Washoe Lake, located at the north end of East Lake Blvd, also has day use facilities with restrooms and beach areas. The day use fee is good at all three areas. Access to the west side of the lake can be achieved by taking the Bellevue Road exit off US 395.