WHAT TO EXPECT Loggerhead Shrike - Photo by Steve Ting
Fort Churchill Road/2B is a 16-mile county road, at this time paved only for the first mile, along a particularly productive stretch of the lower Carson River. Riparian species are to be found among the cottonwoods and willow thickets on the river side of the road, raptors and high desert sage scrub species on the uphill side. During migration and in summer, birders should check the trees around the ruins of the old fort (ca. 1860) at the end of the route. Although much of the river side of the route is privately owned, public access points occur throughout the trip. Portions of Fort Churchill Road are within the Carson River Delta Nevada Important Bird Area.
Best time of year: May through October
Notable species: Look for soaring raptors, particularly Golden Eagle, throughout the latter half of the route. Watch for Osprey, Wood Duck, herons, egrets, and waterfowl on the river. Desert species include Black-throated, Sage, Brewer's, and Lark Sparrows as well as Loggerhead Shrike and Sage Thrasher. Western and Mountain Bluebirds, warblers, and Bullock's Oriole are both migrants and summer nesters. Rock and Canyon Wrens and White-throated Swift can be found near the cliffs and rocky outcroppings along the road.
Precautions: Respect private property, especially along the high security area belonging to the Nevada Automotive Test Center at 9.5 miles from US 50. It is best to avoid Fort Churchill Road after heavy rains.
HOW TO GET THERE From the I-80 & US 395 interchange, drive south on US 395 approximately 27 miles to Carson City. As you approach Carson City, bear left to stay on US 395 south for another 3 miles to Exit 39 US 50. Exit onto US 50 eastbound to Dayton/Fallon. Continue 9.6 miles to Dayton. At an additional 5.3 miles east of Main Street in Dayton, turn right (south) on Fort Churchill Road (dirt after approximately 1.0 mile paved surface).
POPULAR BIRDING ROUTE Follow Fort Churchill Road/2B, which passes through posted private properties. There is good access to productive river areas after 5 miles. After 6 miles, access to the river is restricted, but raptor density increases. Good river access begins again at 12.7 miles. At the end of the road (16 miles), bird Fort Churchill State Historic Park (day use fee and restrooms). Proceed 0.8 mile beyond the fort to Alternate US 95. For Side Trip A, turn right (south) onto Alternate US 95. Or, to begin the return trip, turn left (north) on Alternate US 95 to Silver Springs (8 miles). Return to Reno either via Carson City (Side Trip B) by turning left (west) onto US 50 (a 64-mile trip) or via Fernley straight ahead north and then I-80 to the west (a 45-mile total trip).
OPTIONAL SIDE TRIPS Side Trip A Connection to Area #2 - Carson River Ranches: At Alternate US 95 turn right (south) and go 0.6 mile to Buckland Station on the left, the starting point for the Carson River Ranches vehicle and canoe routes.
Side Trip B Sixmile Canyon Road: This canyon's cottonwood-lined creek has been the site of exceptional finds during migration, including Virginia's Warbler. Sometimes spelled Six Mile, this route may become a toll road. On the return trip via US 50 to Carson City, at 18.5 miles from Alternate US 95 turn right onto Sixmile Canyon Road (directly across the highway from the beginning of Fort Churchill Road). Drive Sixmile Canyon Road 8 miles northwest to Virginia City, birding along the way. Use pullouts to bird, and remain alert to traffic. From Virginia City, return to Reno via SR 341 (north) to US 395 or to Carson City via SR 342 (south) to US 50.