Carson Lake Wetlands


Carson Lake
Carson Lake - Photo by Alan Gubanich

For photographs of species and detailed species information we recommend visiting All About Birds hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


General Map


Detail Map

American Avocet - Photo by Steve Ting

Carson Lake Wetlands, some 70 miles east of Reno, along with Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, encompass a significant portion of the Lahontan Valley wetlands at the terminus of the Carson River. This area of shallow ponds and extensive marshes is one of the Pacific Flyway's major stopovers for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. It may be viewed from an automobile driving loop following a system of dikes with lookout towers along the route. It is open through arrangements between the Nevada Division of Wildlife (775-423-3171) and the Greenhead Hunting Club. Carson Lake Wetlands is part of the Lahontan Valley Wetlands Important Bird Area.

Best time of year: All year is productive, with tens of thousands of shorebirds from late April to mid-May and, again, July through September. Waterfowl, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands, arrive in late fall.

Notable species: Shorebirds present in significant numbers in this designated Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve include Long-billed Dowitcher, Western Sandpiper, American Avocet, and Black-necked Stilt. One of North America's largest nesting colonies of White-faced Ibis is found here. Long-billed Curlew also breeds here. Special sightings may include Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Snowy Plover, and Baird's and Pectoral Sandpipers. A number of duck species nest in the wetlands, most notably Cinnamon Teal, Redhead, and Ruddy Duck, with best viewing March through September. Mountain Plover, Tundra Swan, and longspurs may be seen during winter months. Black Tern and Franklin's Gull are possible late May through June. Raptors include Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, and Peregrine and Prairie Falcons. This area has produced a number of rarities; check the Nevada Birds List Server (see Introduction).

Precautions: Do not drive, hike or wade off of the dikes. Exercise caution when the dikes are muddy or slippery.


From the I-80 & US 395 interchange, drive east on I-80 for approximately 32 miles to Exit 48, the second Fernley exit; bear right and over the railroad overpass. Enter the roundabout and exit east onto US 50. Continue 26 miles to Fallon. In downtown Fallon, turn right (south) on US 95 and travel 8.5 miles to Pasture Road. Turn left and travel 2.3 miles to the Greenhead Hunting Club on your right (south side of the road). Turn right onto the grounds (restrooms).


The best viewing opportunities are along the Madsen Levee, the first main left turn (east) approximately 1 mile south of the club; the Holmes Levee, the first main right off of the Madsen Levee, running more or less due south; and the Lott Freeway, the first main left turn (east) off of the Holmes Levee. There is one viewing tower on the Holmes Levee and two on the Madsen Levee, the second of which may be closed during nesting periods. Backtrack after you drive each dike. Travel and viewing opportunities will vary depending on water conditions. From the hunt club entrance on Pasture Road, turn left and backtrack to Fallon. (Side Trip A)


Side Trip A Fallon Naval Air Station Nature Trail: This short trail contains ponds, agricultural fields and riparian habitat yielding songbirds in summer and sparrows in winter; White-faced Ibis, gulls and other waterfowl may be present when fields are being irrigated. As you leave the hunt club, turn right onto Pasture Road and follow it through a 90 degree turn left (north). Proceed 7.3 miles to Wildes Road /SR 118, turn left (west), go 0.7 mile, turn right onto Crook Road, and turn right again onto a dirt road into the parking area for Fallon Naval Air Station Nature Trail. To return to Fallon, exit the parking area and turn right (north) onto Crook Road. Travel 1.5 miles to US 50 and turn left (west).

Other side trips: See Area #15 - Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Side Trips