Washoe Lake, Nevada, USA

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

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Looking for Washoe Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Washoe Lake

Washoe Lake, along with the smaller Little Washoe Lakes, is located in western Nevada between Carson City and Reno. Nestled in peaceful Washoe Valley, the lake has stunning views of both the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Carson Range. The 8,053 acre Washoe Lake State Park was established in 1977 to preserve this scenic area from development, and today the park provides numerous recreational and educational opportunities at the lake.

Washoe Lake is named for some of the area’s earliest inhabitants, the Washoe Indians. The tribe typically spent the winter in Washoe Valley, using willows and cattails from the wetlands of Washoe Lake to weave baskets and other useful items. They then migrated to the “Big Lake,” Lake Tahoe, for the summer. But life in the area changed forever in 1859 with the discovery of silver in Virginia City to the east of the lake. That same year, Mormons established a settlement near Franktown on the west side of the lake, and thousands of newcomers came to Washoe Valley. Mills were built on the shores of Washoe Lake and Little Washoe Lake, the remnants of which can still be seen today. By the late 1870s the mines had run out, and the mining towns faded away. But many settlers remained to work the land of Washoe Valley, eventually replacing the Washoe Indians.

Washoe Lake receives water from Carson Range snowmelt and from several small creeks north and west of the basin. Lake waters drain into Steamboat Creek, which runs north into the Truckee River. The Marlette Water System diverts some of the water flowing into Big Washoe Lake to Carson City and Virginia City. A small dam at the north end of Little Washoe Lake controls the outflow to Steamboat Creek for downstream irrigation. Therefore, the surface area of Washoe Lake can vary considerably from year to year, depending on snowfall and rainfall.

The warm waters of Lake Washoe provide year-round fishing opportunities for anglers. The lake is stocked with channel catfish, bullhead, white bass, wipers, and Sacramento perch. Boat launches are available at the Main Area and North Ramp. Shore fishing is also popular, with the best access being at Little Washoe Lake, South Beach, and North Ramp. Anglers should be aware that there is currently a fish consumption advisory on white bass and carp, and the Nevada Division of Wildlife recommends not eating white bass caught from Washoe Lake or Little Washoe Lake, and limiting the consumption of carp caught at the lakes to no more than one meal per month.

Recreational boating is another favorite activity at the lake. Windsurfing, sailing, and kiteboarding are especially popular, as strong winds often blow down from the nearby mountains. The warm weather, wide beaches, and shallow waters all help to make Washoe Lake an ideal place for catching some waves. Power boats are also welcome at Washoe Lake, providing the opportunity for water skiing or jet skiing. Motor boats are not recommended at Little Washoe Lake.

Nature lovers will find plenty of ways to hit the trails at Washoe Lake State Park. Separate marked trails are designated for both motorized and non-motorized uses, making the park accessible for hiking, biking, horseback riding, or motorcycling. Equestrian areas are available at both the Main Area and North Ramp. When you are ready for a break from exploring, several day-use areas provide a place to picnic and relax. The largest of these, Main Area, has shade trees and sandy beaches as well as a campground with 49 campsites, each equipped with tables, grills, and fire rings.

There is a variety of wildlife to observe at Washoe Lake State Park. Deer, coyote, hawks, and eagles can all be spotted in the park, and hundreds of species of birds frequent the lake, including mountain bluebirds, red winged blackbirds, magpies, rufous sided towhees, and killdeer. At the southern edge of the park is a woodland area that is home to waterfowl. A viewing platform provides spectacular views of Washoe Lake, as well as nearby Slide Mountain, a 9,600 foot peak that is usually capped with snow. A pay-telescope mounted on the platform provides an up-close view of the marsh’s wildlife; cranes, herons, pelicans, and egrets can often be spotted here.

No matter how you choose to enjoy the great outdoors, Washoe Lake is sure to please. Just as scenic as its larger cousin, Lake Tahoe–but much less crowded–Washoe Lake is the perfect place to plan your next outdoor adventure.

Things to Do at Washoe Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at Washoe Lake

  • Bass
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Perch
  • Sacramento Perch
  • White Bass

Find Places to Stay at Washoe Lake

If you’re considering a Washoe 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 Washoe Lake Vacation

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

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Washoe Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 5,800 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,029 feet

Average Depth: 7 feet

Maximum Depth: 12 feet

Water Volume: 38,000 acre-feet

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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