If you enjoy the Lake Tahoe area but could do without the crowds, Walker River State Recreation Area may be the place for you. As one of the largest state parks in Nevada, it contains over 10,000 acres, which are divided into four distinct units.
The Pitchfork Ranch section is the most developed park area. This unit includes the park headquarters, along with some cool kayaking and canoeing areas. Nine Mile Ranch, also known as the “Elbow,” is basically the opposite. This undeveloped area is just like the large ranch area that it was 100 years ago. The other two units are the Rafter 7 Ranch and Flying M Ranch. At all four units, outdoor activities include kayaking for all skill levels, fishing, and wildlife viewing. You can learn about the history of the area at the Visitor Center or have a quiet picnic at one of the day-use areas. Hunters will delight in big game like antelope and bighorn sheep.
Pitchfork Ranch and Nine Mile Ranch each have large RV campgrounds. True to the rustic nature of this park, the campsites at Walker River State Recreation Area have no hookups. However, there a number of amenities are available so that you can enjoy your RV camping trip to the great state of Nevada.
RV Rentals in Walker River State Recreation Area
Transportation in Walker River State Recreation Area
Walker River State Recreation Area is the epitome of a desert oasis. To reach the park, most people start at U.S. Highway 95, a remote road that basically leads from nowhere to nowhere. After looping around a seemingly endless desert basin, suddenly RVers come upon Walker River. It’s not exactly like the Nile River in the middle of the Egyptian desert, but it is pretty close.
Alternatively, Walker River State Recreation Area is not too far from the Reno, Carson City, and Tahoe. Visitors must still navigate through a desert basin, but it’s a very scenic drive. The park itself is mostly undeveloped. There are a few informal parking areas near the river, so visitors can launch their canoes, kayaks, or other unpowered watercraft. Additional parking is available near the Visitor Center.
Campgrounds and parking in Walker River State Recreation Area
Campsites in Walker River State Recreation Area
The Bighorn Campground is a bit more remote and further into the desert, so it's a great RV camping location if you want to truly get away from it all. Each of the 16 sites feature a picnic table and fire ring. Restroom facilities are centrally located. While this campground is quite primitive, it's located in the the "Elbow" at Nine Mile section, making it a prime spot for anglers. You can try you luck fishing at multiple points along the Walker River, all within steps from your campsite.
Riverbend Campground features 16 RV and tent campsites that are very close to the river’s edge. There are lots of shade trees, and each parking spot has a shade ramada. Each campsite also has a fire ring and a picnic table. So, many RVers spend more time outside than they do inside. While there are no hookups, you will have access to an RV dump station. Riverbend Campground is located in the Pitchfork Ranch section of the park, meaning you'll have access to idyllic picnicking at the day-use area and floating opportunities at the Walker River. If you want to give the kids a history lesson, the Visitor Center is not far either.
Seasonal activities in Walker River State Recreation Area
There is basically one long nature trail which meanders all over the Pitchfork Ranch. Don’t be surprised to see archaeological or historical objects, but don’t touch them either. The trail covers both the green river basin, where the wildflowers are very pretty in the spring, and the fragile high desert ecosystem. You can tour these areas in your rig. Horseback riders and mountain bikers are welcome on the hiking trail as well.
Whether you’re into serenity fishing or catching something for dinner, Walker River State Recreation Area is the place for your motorhome. Relax and enjoy the scenery near the Visitor Center, or paddle off a bit and enjoy the rush of the water from the safety of the shoreline. As one might expect, fly fishing is very popular here. The Elbow, which is in the southern part of the park, is a particularly good fly-fishing spot. Anglers can expect to catch mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, and brown trout. There is usually a harvesting limit. Above the limit, it’s catch-and-release.
The ribbon-like East Fork of the Walker River cuts through this scenic desert. The water level varies, so check with rangers for the best put-in and take-out locations. April through July are the best tubing and paddling months for RV campers. The rapids, or lack thereof, vary as well. So, this part of the Walker River is ideal for all skill levels. The stretch between Riverbend and Skull Rock is almost as placid as a backyard swimming pool. As you paddle north toward Last Call Point or south toward Squeeze Shoot, the rapids get faster.
Winter nights at Walker River State Recreation Area are long and dark. Lots of people leave their rigs and head to the Skull Rock area for nighttime stargazing. There are some high points here that are inside the park boundaries and also easily accessible via road or nature trail. Set up your telescope and enjoy the show. The sharp details on nearby celestial bodies look like images from the Hubble Telescope. You can even see features like the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter. And don’t forget the myriad of shooting stars that fill the sky as well.
Exploring the Visitor Center
Many people start their Walker River State Recreation Area RV camping adventure in this brand-new museum complex. Interactive exhibits tell the story of this area from both a historical and environmental point of view. A few minutes here significantly enhance the remainder of your visit.
As one might expect, a clear stream that flows through the barren desert is very attractive to both RV campers and the local wildlife. Close to the river, look for otters and beavers. These creatures are not terribly shy, and they usually prefer the slower rapids close to the Visitor Center. A bit further out, mule deer and pronghorn antelope frequently venture to the river for a drink. The antelope often appear in small herds. Away from the river, look for coyotes, mountain lions, and other desert dwellers. In the skies overhead, there are lots of tree birds, like owls, and birds of prey, like hawks.