Photo from Chevron Travel Guide circa 1960s
Pyramid Lake is located completely within the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Reservation, approximately 35 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada. The salt water lake is all that remains of ancient Lake Lahontan, which was formed during the Pleistocene Epoch, about 2,000,000 years ago. (The Lahontan Reservoir near Fallon, NV is man-made.)
The state's largest natural lake, Pyramid Lake is approximately 30 miles long, and stretches 11 miles across at its widest spot. The lake measures 350 feet at its deepest point. It is fed by the waters of the Truckee River flowing from Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and therefore depends on the river flow for lake levels. Pyramid Lake itself has no outlet. Local lore is rife with stories of people and items being "lost" in Pyramid Lake and later washing up at sea. As a youngster growing up in Reno, and a teenager who roamed and camped on the shores of the lake every chance I got, I heard many tales of "Water Babies" and other water spirits that instilled in me a deep respect and love for both the People and Lore of Pyramid Lake. Gazing at the ancient other-worldly landscape of the area makes such stories quite believable. I have a few mysterious stories of the lake myself.
The large rock pyramid after
which the lake is named
Pyramid Lake was "discovered" by Capt. John Charles Fremont in early 1844. Fremont named it for the tufa deposits that rise from the lake and resemble the Pyramids of Egypt. The large rock pyramid after which the lake is named is a natural stone formation standing five stories high and is both older and larger than the pyramids of Egypt. Anahoe Island in the lake is a bird sanctuary and a breeding ground for white pelicans, which are often visible from the shore. Surrounded by arid desert, Pyramid Lake's ever-evolving shoreline is barren of foliage except for desert sagebrush and scrub brush. Many scenes for the movie "The Greatest Story Every Told," starring Charlton Heston as Moses, were filmed at Pyramid Lake.
Much of the economy on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation is centered around fishing and recreational activities. Pyramid Lake is noted for its record-breaking cutthroat trout, some weighing more than 40 pounds. The lake also is the home of the prehistoric Cui-ui (pronounced KWEE-wee), an endangered species of fish found no other place in the world (although some reports also place the Cui-ui in the Black Sea). Also, the Tribe recently opened a museum and cultural center on the shores of the lake, and offers fishing, day visit and camping facilities. But much of Pyramid Lake remains unchanged. A visit to the shores of this spiritually and culturally rich body of water truly is a step back in time.
Click below for a series of photos from my recent return home to Pyramid Lake. Check out the unexpected guest who paid me a surprise visit there!
The entire Pyramid Lake region is rich in fossils. Recently a Tribal Deputy found the skull of an ancient miniature horse, a rare find as the skull was almost fully intact. My photo linked below, and the location of the purported "fossil," both have been sent to the Paiute Tribe for investigation.