Monday, May 20, 2013

Fallon is for the Birds

The Carson Lake Wetlands are teeming with migratory birds in the spring.
BY MATTHEW B. BROWN (story & photos)

"It's Cinnamon Teal sex!" blurts out tour guide Mike Goddard. This gets the collective attention of the small group of journalists and bird enthusiasts huddled atop the two-story observation tower located at the Carson Lake Wetlands. Our binoculars and camera lenses move frantically in the direction Goddard points, as this "miracle of nature" plays out. Like most bird activities, this particular duck courtship is over rather quickly (as is today's lesson in the birds and the bees), and we're back to scanning the fields and marshes for other interesting avian behavior.

So it is at the annual Spring Wings Bird Festival in Fallon — located 61 miles east of Reno on U.S. Highway 50 — which for good reason touts itself as the "Oasis of Nevada." Every year, birders flock to Fallon and its surrounding Lahontan Valley Wetlands, recognized as critical and important by such prestigious groups as the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, American Bird Conservancy, and Audubon Society.

From May 17-19, as media I had the pleasure of attending some of the Spring Wings events. Below is a summary of those activities and a few more nuggets to be found in the City of Fallon.

The Amazing Birds of Prey

Friday night we were treated to a presentation titled "The Amazing Birds of Prey," by Master Falconer Marie Gaspari-Crawford, one of only a few female falconers in Nevada. She, along with her niece and partner Chloe Bowen, shared information about the history of hunting with birds of prey and how they've developed a deep passion for working with these amazing birds, such as their lovable red-tailed hawk named Dartanyon. Gaspari-Crawford lives in Palomino Valley, between Sparks and Pyramid Lake. See photo here, by @shannonswitzer.

Meander the Marsh: Kayak Float

On Saturday morning we kayaked Tule Lake, located within Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, with guide Pat Fried, owner of Great Basin Sports. Aside from the scenic kayak tour and the many birds to view, Fried educated us on the importance of properly disposing of waste, such as motor oil or the soapy water people conveniently dump down the storm drain when washing their car at home. Stillwater, east of Fallon via country and dirt roads, is the terminus of the Carson River, so that unfiltered waste water ends up in these marshes.

Whoo's Where? Owl Prowl

Various types of owls make their respective homes at the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, which we witnessed on Saturday afternoon. Whether it was in a manmade box (barn owl), a tree (great-horned owl), or a hole in the ground (burrowing owl), we were shown the many different environments that owls roost in during the day. I later heard Kyle Carlsen, assistant editor for Bird Watcher's Digest, say that the burrowing owl was a life bird for him — and he's seen a lot of birds! This tour was guided by the aforementioned Goddard, who is extremely knowledgable in his role as president of Friends of Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Carson Lake Wetlands Loop

Male American Avocet
Goddard was our guide again for this Sunday morning tour, which this time took us south of Fallon to Carson Lake. It's not your typical lake, but rather a network of canals, channels, and marshes that run through extensive cattle range. One thing is for sure: Birds love it. We saw a ton here, routinely stopping to set the scope on seasonal migrants such as avocets, ibises, waterfowl, hawks, and many other winged critters. The observation tower is 25 years old this year and affords incredible views of the wetlands, part of the Globally Important Bird Area.

See more photos from the 2013 Spring Wings Bird Festival in this Flickr set.

Other Fallon goodies:

• The historic Douglass House — Built in 1904, this charming pink Victorian house stands out nicely in downtown Fallon. See photo here.

• The Williams House — Also historic, this is said to be the first home built in Fallon. Owner Licia Rogne has plans to make the beautifully refurbished home into a spa/wellness retreat.

• The Slanted Porch — One of Fallon's great restaurants that takes advantage of its agricultural surrounds by offering such menu items as fresh-out-of-the-garden beet salad (see photo here). Read more about the restaurant in this Nevada Magazine story from our September/October 2010 issue.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Historic Bowers Mansion Opens For Tours

The recently renovated historic Bowers Mansion in Washoe Valley will reopen for tours on May 18 for the first time since 2009. Two $100,000 grants from the State Historic Preservation Office Commission on Cultural Affairs were received for the seismic and structural rehabilitation of the mansion. In addition, the mansion’s spring-fed swimming pool will reopen June 8. The William N. Pennington Foundation donated $150,000 to renovate the Bowers Pool, which has also been closed since 2009.

There will be a series of programs entitled “Programs on the Porch” at 7 p.m. Friday evenings May 31-June 28. Washoe County Parks Ranger Jerry Buzzard will host the programs, which will include music and guest speakers and are free with donations accepted.

WHERE: 4005 U.S. Highway 395 North, Carson City, NV 89704 (21 miles south of Reno on old US 395).

WHEN: Tours are Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through September 29. Tours are on the hour at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m.

COST: Adults, ages 18-61, $8; children 6-17, $5, seniors 62+, $5; children 5 and younger are free.

CONTACT: Group tours can be coordinated by calling 775-849-0201.

Bowers Mansion offers a rare glimpse into Nevada life during the 1860s. The mansion was built in 1864 by Comstock millionaires L.S. “Sandy” Bowers and his wife, Allison Oram. Their story reflects the rags-to-riches-to-rags tales so commonly associated with Nevada’s first silver boom. Along with the history, visitors are sure to enjoy the beauty of the mansion’s sixteen rooms, each elegantly furnished with Victorian antiques.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wet ‘n’ Wild Las Vegas Prepares For Grand Opening

-- Gold and Season Pass holders to be among first park guests --
-- Operating dates and times – In-park services details on website --

Wet ‘n’ Wild Las Vegas waterpark is in the final stages of construction and today announced additional details regarding park operating hours, special days for Gold Pass and Season Pass holders, and information on other services being offered inside the park. Gold Pass and Season Pass holders will be among the first to try the more than 25 slides and attractions at the new water park beginning Memorial Day Weekend. Wet ‘n’ Wild Las Vegas is located at 7055 S. Fort Apache Rd., just west of the I-215 and W. Sunset Road exit.

Operating Hours and Days*
● May 25-27: Gold Pass holders only from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
● May 28-31: Season Pass and Gold Pass holders only from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
● June 1-2: Season Pass and Gold Pass holders only from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
● June 3-Sept. 30: Single day admissions, groups and pass holders
Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 4 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
* Pricing, dates, and time are subject to change.

“We’re excited to welcome our Gold Pass and Season Pass holders with special days starting Memorial Day weekend to be among the first to enjoy all our slides and attractions,” said Takuya Ohki, Wet ‘n’ Wild Las Vegas general manager. “Our pass holders’ support, eagerness and excitement since the water park was first announced has been tremendous, and providing them with exclusive time in the park is one way we can show our appreciation.”

Single-day admission tickets that can be used beginning June 3 will go on sale soon on the park’s website. Pre-season discounts on the Season Pass and Gold Pass will end on June 2 with a regular Season Pass and Gold Pass pricing beginning on June 3. Ohki said the various pass options provide the best value to enjoy the park throughout the season.

Details on the many in-park services — such as cabana, locker, and tube rentals — and more group event information has been added to the park website. For more information, visit, and click on the Park Info and/or FAQs tabs.

Read more about the waterpark in Nevada Magazine's May/June 2013 issue, or here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nevada Magazine Announces 2013 Photo Contest

For more than three decades, Nevada Magazine’s Great Nevada Picture Hunt photo contest has been a favorite among photographers and readers. The Grand Prize winner of this year’s contest will receive a $250 gift certificate (redeemable online as well) courtesy of Gordon’s Photo Service based in Carson City and Reno. The winner will also have the image published in the September/October 2013 issue of Nevada Magazine and on, and receive an award certificate.

2nd Place will receive a $150 gift certificate from Gordon’s, 3rd Place will receive a $100 certificate, and 4th Place will receive a $50 certificate. All winners and Honorable Mentions will be published in the September/October 2013 issue of Nevada Magazine and on, as well as receive award certificates.

The 2013 Great Nevada Picture Hunt, open to all photographers, has no categories this year, so your creativity has no bounds. Send up to seven (7) submissions via e-mail to by 5 p.m. (PDT) on Monday, July 1, 2013. To mail your images, call 775-687-0617 for instructions. Click here to view past photo contest winners, or for more contest details, visit

In Nevada Magazine’s May/June 2013 issue 

Nevada Magazine’s May/June 2013 issue is now available on statewide and national newsstands. It features stories on HawkWatch International, which has a raptor research site in Nevada's Goshute Mountains, and a Carson Valley falconry family. Also highlighted are the Silver State's vast network of scenic dirt roads, and the issue's other feature story is a photo gallery spotlighting the historic town of Virginia City.

The Cravings department includes a story about arte italia's Reno culinary classes, featuring authentic Italian chefs and food. The City Limits section previews the new Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas waterpark. Finally, cycling enthusiasts can learn about six scenic Nevada rides — three in Northern Nevada and three in Southern Nevada.