The Lahontan National Fish Hatchery Complex
Pacific Southwest Region

Chronology of the Walker Basin

During the following decade, national environmental legislation was passed that would eventually be summarized here in Table below

1837

Southwestern U.S

Introduction of tamarisk

This invasive species has displaced native tree species such as cottonwood and willow along the Walker River and its tributaries.

1859

Mason Valley

Ranching was established

Nathan Hockett Allen Mason started a ranching and cattle operation on over 30 square miles of the river.

1859

Virginia City

Gold discovered

It created a population increase in Northern Nevada.

1859

Walker Lake and surrounding areas

Land set aside for  the Walker River Paiute Indian Reservation

Included Walker Lake and 318,809 acres of land near it.

1860

Upstream tributaries of Walker River

Irrigation

Diverted water for agriculture

1860s

Singatse Range

Copper discovered

Encouraged settlement

1861

Aurora

 Gold discovered

Town of about 5,000 with stamping mills.  The town collapsed by 1864 little mining continued until 1918.

1861

Nevada Territory

Fishing regulation

Made it illegal to catch fish with net, drag, basket, poison etc.

1861­1865

Mason Valley

Ditch construction

 

1862

Antelope Valley

Irrigation began

 

1862

 

Homestead Act

Land rush to the West

1862

Nevada Territory

Water pollution regulation

It made it illegal to obstruct the natural flow of the stream and to dump sawdust, chips etc.into the water.  Intended to protect irrigation but was also good for fish and wildlife.  Did not apply to mining.

1862

Walker Lake

10 year ferry franchise

Issued to J.H. Rose to ferry people across the lake.

1864

Walker Lake and surrounding areas

Official establishment of the Walker River Paiute Indian Reservation

Included all the land originally set aside for the reservation.

1864

Walker River

Alfalfa introduced

Major forage crop on the Carson, Truckee and Walker rivers.

1864

West Walker

Franchise to W.G. Alban

Float timber

1866

Nevada

Chapter 100 of Nevada Revised Statues

Anyone constructing a ditch had to file with the county.

1870

Bodie

Mining increased

Increased freight traffic and agriculture demands.

1871

Nevada

Fish regulation

Made it illegal to fish from January 1st to September 1st with anything other than a hook and line.  Also mandated the implementation of fish ladders on mill dams.

1880

East Shore of Walker Lake

Railroad construction

For the shipment of ore from the mines in Bodie.

1880s

West Walker River

Cattle ranching

Thomas Rickey set up operations which included most of Antelope Valley.

1881

Walker River

Railroad construction

Carson & Colorado lines to transport Lahontan cutthroat into Dayton for the tribe for free.

1881

Walker Lake

Lahontan fisheries

Trout caught at the north end of the lake but not found in the southern part because of high alkalinity.

1881

Singatse Range

First major copper mine

Built a smelter.

1881

Upstream from Walker Lake

High irrigation use

Extremely low water flow in the fall.

1881

Walker River

Salmon introduced

2,000 released at Schurz Station.

1882

Spragg’s Dam

Lahontan fisheries

Regular use of nets to catch massive amounts of fish despite laws prohibiting it.

1885

Walker Lake

Lahontan fisheries

Lake abundant with cutthroat.

1885

Nevada

Prior appropriation

Supreme Court approved prior appropriation for water rights.

1889

Nevada

Chapter 113 of  the Nevada Revised Statues

Regulation on water use and priority. Protection for irrigation interests along the major streams in Nevada.

1890

West Walker River

Construction of Colony Ditch

Diverted water for use in Smith Valley.

1892

Walker Lake

Decline of Lahontan cutthroat

Blamed on non-native fish and diversion dams which prevented spawning

1900

West Walker River

Low water

The flow of the West Walker is insufficient to meet all demands.

1906

Walker River

Native water rights

The Walker River Paiute Tribe cedes 268,000 acres of reservation land to the U.S., including all the land around Walker Lake.

1920

West Walker River

Construction of Saroni Canal

Provide irrigation to Smith Valley.

1922

West Walker River

Closure of Topaz Reservoir

Storage of West Walker River flow begins in Topaz Reservoir.

1923

East Walker River

Closure of Bridgeport Reservoir

Storage of East Walker River flow and tributaries in Bridgeport Reservoir.

1924­1925

Walker River

No flow at Wabuska

Drought coupled with water use depletes the Walker River.

1928

West Walker River

Construction of West Side Canal

Provides irrigation to Mason Valley.

1958

Walker River

Federal Funds received for channel improvements 

Channel of the Walker River was “cleared”.

1960

Basin wide

Groundwater pumping becomes widespread

Groundwater becomes a major source of supplemental irrigation water

1988

East Walker River

Walker River Irrigation District drains Bridgeport Reservoir

Increased water temperatures and siltation downstream causes massive fish-kill.  Subsequent litigation imposes minimum pool elevations and instream flows downstream of the reservoir.

 

The first form of legal protection of the water resources of the Basin came in a 1963 agreement between the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Walker River Irrigation District (WRID) that allowed for the enlargement of Bridgeport Reservoir under the condition that WRID would maintain a minimum pool of 1,500 acre-feet during years when conditions allowed. WRID would also have to agree to a minimum instream flow of the lesser of 50 cfs or the natural flow on the East Walker River.

During the following decade, national environmental legislation was passed that would eventually be instrumental in paving the way for more formal conservation efforts in the Basin.  This legislation included the National Environmental Protection Act (1969) and the Clean Water Act (1972). The California Wild and Scenic River Act, passed in 1972 as well, would come to provide protection for some of the upper sections of the West Walker River.

The steady decline of Walker Lake’s base elevation has resulted in dramatically increased levels of total dissolved solids** (TDS) in the lake that has severely impacted the fishery.  The threat of loss of this terminal lake system and its fishery has mobilized a coordinated effort to improve the ecological integrity of the Basin.  In 2006, through the legislation of the Desert Terminal Lakes Program, Public Law 109-103, Section 208 (c)(1), $10 million dollars was provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to address riverine restoration and noxious weed eradication. This funding has prompted the USFWS to commence a Watershed Assessment of the Basin to prioritize restoration activities and guide funding of restoration projects.

**The amount of all dissolved solids in water, primarily consisting of minerals and salts, but may also include organic matter.

Walker River Basin Decree (7.2MB PDF)

Walker River Basin Decree Amendment

For a more detailed Chronology of the Walker Basin, visit the following sites: 

http://water.nv.gov/WaterPlanning/walker/walker1.cfm external link
http://water.nv.gov/WaterPlanning/walker/walker2.cfm external link
http://water.nv.gov/WaterPlanning/walker/walker3.cfm external link

Last updated: January 28, 2011