Davis Creek Park Entrance
Davis Creek Regional Park is located in the Eastern Sierra Region between Carson Range's Slide Mountain and Washoe Lake. The park includes recreational facilities including a fishing pond, picnic tables, camping sites and a small horseshoe playground. Two loop trails, Nature Trail and Discovery Trail, are inside the park. The Ophir Creek Trail begins here and connects with scenic places and trails at much higher elevations: Tahoe Meadows, Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and the Mt. Rose Wilderness.

Before its opening as a public park in 1969, this area was part of the 4,000-acre Winters Ranch, known in the second half of the 19th century for its thoroughbred horses [1]. Today, this area is a popular getaway for relaxation, nature and geology studies, canyon and mountain hiking as well as equestrian uses [2]. The park landscape features sagebrush, bitterbrush, manzanitas and Jeffrey pines thriving in these eastside Sierra Nevada foothills—situated in the rain but not in the wind shadow of Slide Mountain.

Davis Pond Map
On a peaceful and sunny summer day, visitors may find it difficult to believe, that the park neighborhood was the scene of a devastating rock and soil slide at about noon on May 30, 1983 [3,4]: Since the unusually wet winter of 1982/83 brought a record snowpack, a high runoff was inevitable when a sustained warm period began in late May of that slide-year. The infiltration of water into the subsurface eventually caused avalanches of rockfall and debris that reached and damaged a small reservoir (Upper Price Lake), triggering further slides and torrents streaming downward over the alluvial fan of Ophir Creek into Washoe Valley. Geological studies suggest that similar rock slides have happened at least nine times in the past 50,000 years [4].

Trail Post
The short Nature Trail (0.7 mi) loops around Davis Pond and through parking and picnic lots (yellow line in map). It partially coincidences with the Discovery Trail (1.7 mi), a bigger loop, which connects with the camp ground and the foothill slopes. Ophir Creek Trail (about 8 miles, one way from Davis Creek Park to TRT) is a steep trail—mostly single-track. It has two branches in the lower section: one begins at the wood bridge over a tiny seasonal creek south of the restroom and the other next to the restroom (purple line starting at the “You Are Here” arrow tip in the map). These two sections merge after about a one-hour climb on either of these sections. The trail continues between granodiorite rocks and soon reaches the V-shaped gorge of Ophir Creek. The trail follows the north rim of the steep canyon for a while, continues through forest and manzanita shrubs and finally leads into a field of coarse-grained sand, rocks and boulders. At this point the trail is crossing Ophir Creek. Depending on the season and weather conditions, water may race or trickle downhill and over the trail, requiring some boulder hopping to get to the other side, from where Ophir Creek Trail continues to the Rock Lake and Price Lake junctions and to Tahoe Meadows.

Hiking Ophir Creek Trail gives the opportunity to browse the landscape for evidence of the catastrophic 1983 slide, in particular, and of restless erosion processes in general. About one hundred years earlier, Mark Twain described the potential occurrence of land slides in the Carson Range in his fictionalized account Roughing It:

“The mountains are very high and steep about Carson, Eagle and Washoe Valleys—very high and very steep, and so when the snow gets to melting off fast in the Spring and the warm surface-earth begins to moisten and soften, the disastrous land-slides commence. The reader cannot know what a land-slide is, unless he has lived in that country and seen the whole side of a mountain taken off some fine morning and deposited down in the valley, leaving a vast, treeless, unsightly scar upon the mountain's front to keep the circumstances fresh in his memory all the years he may go on living within seventy miles of that place.” Mark Twain, 1872 [5].

Now the reader knows! Note that Mike White also cited this passage in his Reno-Tahoe hiking guide [2]. Verbal records from Paiute tribes and reports by white settlers indicate that slides and floodings thread the natural history of appropiately named Slide Mountain [4]. An interplay of seismic activity and weather conditions keeps the mountain on the move.
manzanita urns

Nodding cluster of urn-shaped bells
belonging to a manzanita shrub
along Ophir Creek Trail, April 2012

Getting to Davis Creek Park
The park is located about half-way between Reno and Carson City. Its entrance is located west of Highway 395. From Old US Hwy 395 (Route 429), turn west into Davis Creek Road, which ends inside the park. Currently, a new section of Highway 395 between South Reno and here is under construction. When finished, there should be an exit to Davis Creek Park and nearby Bowers Mansion.

Nearby trails and places of interest

North: Brown's Creek Trail, Lower Galena Creek Trail,
Jones Whites Loop Trail

References and more to explore

[1] Truckee Meadows Trails. RGJ Custom Publishing Group, Reno, October 2009, pp. 7-8.
[2] Mike White: Afoot & Afield, Reno-Tahoe, A comprehensive hiking guide. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 1st Edition August 2006, 2nd printing 2008, pp. 265-269.
[3] Slide Mountain, Nevada 1983: www.eventsnevada.com/SlideMtn1983.html.
[4] J. V. Tingley, K. A. Pizarro, C. Ross, B. W. Purkey and L. J. Garside: Geologic and Natural History Tours in the Reno Area. Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 19, University of Nevada, Reno, 1st Edition August 2006, 2nd printing 2005, pp. 80-82.
[5] Mark Twain: Roughing It. First published in 1872 and reprinted by Penguin Books in Penguin Classics 1985 (see page 252).

Related pages and further information

Davis Creek Regional Park: renotahoe.about.com/od/publicparks/a/Davis-Creek-Regional-Park.htm.
Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa, Davis Creek Park: ponderosascenery.homestead.com/files/davis.html.

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