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Old 06-08-2013, 04:24 PM   #1
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Off 50: Fort Churchill State Park

I gotta hand it to NV: their parks blow our CA parks outta the water.

We stopped here expecting to just stay the night; I stayed three days.

Fort Churchill was established for a coupla reasons: protection from Indians and to show the Union flag. Kinda funny as you travel the west; you encounter some place names obviously dropped by southern sympathizers (Alabama Hills) sometimes near stuff named by union sympathizers.

http://parks.nv.gov/parks/fort-churchil ... oric-park/

They have a nice museum and of course the cool ruins. Much of the stuff is gone, but in typical NV fashion it just went to the next settlement, lumber and other goods being scarce. You see the stairway from the officer's quarters in the Buckland Station nearby for example (well worth a stop; I especially liked seeing the restoration work in progress because you see the old construction techniques laid bare).



A very nice feature of the park is its fine campground. Nestled down in a giant grove of big cottonwoods next to the Carson River, it's a delight in warm weather. Big sites (we got buses in there) and very well maintained. Water and pit toilets, and a bunch of trails that you can hike or mountain bike. If you've got a boat, you can paddle from the campground down to Lahontan Reservoir, in what looks like a very pretty trip. Lots of birds and beavers at night. And pretty quiet; didn't even fill up over Memorial weekend. The state park personnel were extremely accommodating; very different from the camp cops I usually encounter here in CA.

Nearby there are some very nice offroad routes. In fact, a nice little detour to get there is to turn off onto dirt by the Carson River at the eastern end of Dayton on 50. The road follows the river, and much is private property, but there are a few spots to stop and dry camp. You end up right at Ft Churchill, since in fact it was once the "main" road. You catch the western end where the Six Mile road drops out of Virginia City. You can fish the Carson, but there are advisories about not eating them, although locals say no problem unless you eat a lot. The Dayton mills left a lot of lead, gold, silver and other metals in that water...if you could dredge it you might get rich.

On the other side there are networks of roads leading to the south and east of Lahontan Reservoir, and some old train routes and interesting dirt roads up through Churchill Canyon. The Nevada offroading book lists several, but there are many more.

To the north up towards Fallon there is also the Stillwater Refuge if you're into birding. And legal brothels back to the west off 50 if that's your thing (they seem to be raising lots of bunnies in ranches nearby if you believe the signs...). Ft Churchill has the remains of "laundresses" quarters, who were there to serve the needs of the officers, so maybe that's not new.

All in all, a super nice place to stay in what otherwise can be a sorta hot and dusty environment. And not all that far off 50 if you're bombing along and want someplace decent to lay over.

Rob
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Old 06-20-2013, 10:49 PM   #2
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Re: Off 50: Fort Churchill State Park

Interesting, I flew by there some years back. So during your visit what kind of traffic did the CG get? I seem to remember it was in areas that farmed alfalfa. Sometimes it's nice to break up a long drive and as long as you're not jammed up next to other campers, I'd consider it if in the area.

Dave
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Old 06-21-2013, 12:07 PM   #3
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Re: Off 50: Fort Churchill State Park

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
Interesting, I flew by there some years back. So during your visit what kind of traffic did the CG get? I seem to remember it was in areas that farmed alfalfa. Sometimes it's nice to break up a long drive and as long as you're not jammed up next to other campers, I'd consider it if in the area.
I was very impressed with the main campground. You're kind of up in blazing bright sage, and then as you drop towards the Carson you encounter a big grove of cottonwood, with the campground smack in it. Very oasis-like. Big sites, and more private than many of the campgrounds I'm used to in CA. I was there over Memorial Day weekend, and it didn't fill up. And note that the rangers allow overflow in day use areas if it does fill. A couple of trails lead out of the campground, or you can just walk to the Carson and sit in the sand.

If you cross the Carson on the pavement, and then follow the dirt roads east along the Carson, you can get to Scout Camp, which is in the Carson River Ranches unit of Ft Churchill. It's a rather more free-form rustic campground, close to the river. You can hike along the river, but the vehicle access is limited to the Simpson Rd/Pony Express route, although there are lots of (very) open and dusty boony camp sites along there. The regular campground is much nicer, and I'm not even sure they have water at Scout Camp.

The park owns some of the ranch land around it, and they are in use as ranches. They had flooded some fields when I was there; nice birding.

I'll probably stay there again; worth the dip off 50.

Rob
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