WHAT TO EXPECT Dedicated in April 1999, Swan Lake Nature Study Area (NSA) is a nearly unspoiled wetland in the midst of suburban housing and warehouses. Depending on annual precipitation, the wetland varies from 100 acres to 1,000 acres. Surrounded by sagebrush, greasewood, and other desert vegetation, this large, shallow lake has a marshy habitat on the west side and adjacent sewage treatment ponds on the east. Over 150 species have been recorded here. Burrowing Owls often nest in man-made boxes located at the west and north edges of the nature study area. Swan Lake NSA is a Nevada Important Bird Area.
Best time of year: Year-round
Notable species: Burrowing Owl is present through the breeding season; Tundra Swan, Greater White-fronted Goose, and ducks are common in winter. American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and other shorebirds visit in spring. Check the marshes for Virginia Rail and Sora. Scan the upland areas for sage species.
Precautions: Stay off the alkali mud flats and any muddy roads to avoid becoming mired.
HOW TO GET THERE From the I-80 & US 395 interchange, travel approximately 6 miles north on US 395 to Exit 74 Lemmon Drive. Turn right (north) onto Lemmon Drive and, depending on the route chosen, follow the directions below.
POPULAR BIRDING ROUTES Marsh Boardwalk: At the southwest side of the marsh, a floating boardwalk with benches and interpretive signs allows visitors to penetrate the marsh and part of the lake for approximately 300 yards. From Exit 74, follow Lemmon Drive 0.8 mile north to Military Road. Turn left (northwest) and follow Military Road 1.5 miles to Lear Boulevard. (Side Trip A) Turn right (east) onto Lear Boulevard and drive 0.4 mile to its end at a gravel road. Turn left and drive 0.2 mile to the Swan Lake NSA parking lot. Walk to the boardwalk. Trails from the interpretive area preceding the boardwalk also provide birding access around the entire southwestern shore.
After birding the boardwalk area, the water treatment ponds may be reached by returning to Lemmon Drive via Military Road and following the directions below to Patrician Drive (1.6 miles to the left from Military Road). To return to Reno, turn right (southwest) at Lemmon Drive to reach US 395 south.
Lemmon Valley Sewage Treatment Facility ponds: From Exit 74 Lemmon Drive, turn right (north) onto Lemmon Drive. Drive 2.4 miles to Patrician Drive (a well-marked school zone, 1.6 miles beyond Military Road). Turn left on Patrician Drive and make an immediate right turn onto a dirt road, which parallels Lemmon Drive. Proceed 0.4 mile to the Lemmon Valley Sewage Treatment Facility. At the plant bear to the right and follow the 0.3-mile fence line to bird the ponds on the left. At the north end of the fence line, park and walk the fence line or dike. Swan Lake is visible to the north. Walk or drive the 0.3-mile dirt road along the north side of the pond. A good vehicle turnaround is 0.1 mile to the left of the northwest corner of the pond. Return to the treatment facility and to Patrician Drive.
Additional birding areas: Swan Lake may be viewed from several vantage points, described here in a counterclockwise sequence from southeast to southwest. Distances are in short increments through residential areas.