Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Pyramid Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

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All About Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake is a true natural wonder located in the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation in western Nevada. Covering 117,400 acres, it is the third largest of the remaining salt lakes in the United States, after Great Salt Lake, Utah and Salton Sea, California. Pyramid Lake is the last remnant of Lake Lahontan, an ancient lake that covered most of northern Nevada at the end of the last ice age.

Pyramid Lake is a terminal lake, meaning it has no outlet. Water flowing into the lake comes from the Truckee River, the outflow of Lake Tahoe. Water leaves the lake by evaporation, and evaporation rates are high in this desert environment. Mineral salts from the inflowing river are retained without an outlet and become concentrated over time. The lake is about 1/6 the salinity of sea water.

Pyramid Lake gets its name from the interesting tufa rock formations found in the lake and around the shoreline. Tufas are large calcium carbonate rock deposits formed into unusual shapes. One of the most prominent tufas is Pyramid Island along the lake’s eastern sore. The largest tufa is Anaho Island, a national wildlife refuge, which is home to a large flock of pelicans.

Stone Mother is another large tufa on the lake’s eastern shore. According to Paiute legend, she is the mother of their people and all other Native Americans. Her husband, the father of her children, separated all of them into different tribes when they would not stop bickering. The mother was so sad that she sat and wept, creating Pyramid Lake. She sat so long that she turned to stone, and sits by the lake still.

The local Paiute Indians control the lake, but it is open to the public for fishing and recreation. Camping, fishing, boating and hiking are all allowed, but a permit is required. We encourage you to be respectful of the Paiute and purchase a permit, even if just stopping for an afternoon.

Pyramid Lake is home to several species of fish; one is unique to this lake, and two others are endangered. The Paiute maintain the local fish hatchery which breeds the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. Unfortunately, the Cutthroat have not spawned naturally in nearly 80 years. The Cui-Cui is an endemic fish, and as such, cannot be kept if caught. Other species include Perch, Cutthroat Trout (not the Lahontan variety), and the Tui Chub. The fishing season lasts from the beginning of October through the end of May every year.

In nearby Black Rock City, the yearly Burning Man Festival is held at the end of summer. Begun in 1986, this annual event attracts more than 50,000 participants. Described as an experiment in community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance, the name derives from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy. Tent camping is encouraged by the festival, and people camp in and around Pyramid Lake while they are in town. For nearly a month the entire area becomes filled with this experiment in community and resourcefulness. Despite more than 117,000 acres of water, this is desert environment where temperatures soar in summer.

Pyramid Lake is part of the National Scenic Byways Program, a program that recognizes archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. The lake is the only byway in the USA located entirely within a tribal reservation. Spend some time at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor Center to learn about the history and geology of this ancient lake and why native inhabitants hold it as sacred. Visitors can purchase permits for camping, boating, and fishing at the Center. Visitors should always carry plenty of water when exploring this desert environment.

Things to Do at Pyramid Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • Museum

Fish Species Found at Pyramid Lake

  • Carp
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Perch
  • Trout
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Find Places to Stay at Pyramid Lake

If you’re considering a Pyramid Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Pyramid Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Pyramid Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.
ALL TRAVEL RESOURCES

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Pyramid Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Saltwater Lake, Not Dammed

Water Level Control: Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe

Surface Area: 117,400 acres

Shoreline Length: 100 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3,807 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 3,800 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 3,817 feet

Average Depth: 196 feet

Maximum Depth: 344 feet

Water Volume: 23,660,000 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 50 years

Lake Area-Population: 1,370

Drainage Area: 1,826 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligo-mesotrophic

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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