Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nevada Beyond the Neon: Onion Valley and Knotts Valley Reservoirs

         Take the Crayola challenge!

         Inspect the photo below to find the colors in a 16 count box of crayons*.

The road and the views stretch to the far horizon.
Click to enlarge.

          Most reservoirs in the western United States are as drab and uninspiring as they’re defined:  “...  large lakes used as a source of water supply.”  But not these two.  Located in remote northwestern Nevada, Onion Valley and Knotts Valley require a commitment of time and effort to access but are well worth the endeavor.  And the scene above, along the eight mile drive between the two reservoirs, should put to rest any descriptions of the Nevada landscape as monochromatic.

This is the long and winding road from the tiny town
of Denio Junction, NV to Onion Valley Reservoir.

         The reservoirs offer fishing and camping and our campsite high above Onion Valley Reservoir ranks as my favorite campsite of all time.

Our campsite (above and below) at Onion Valley Reservoir.
The view above is looking toward the lake.  Turning around, below, provided
 this view across northwestern Nevada—and into Oregon as well.

The world at our feet.

Tim fishes Onion Valley and is rewarded with a large rainbow trout.

         If you’re traveling Interstate 80 across Nevada and wish to escape the monotony of the four-lane, venture far from the beaten path to visit these two polychromatic reservoirs.  I guarantee you'll never again accept the definition of them as mere "water supply sources". 

Knotts Valley Reservoir.  Tim is the tiny dot in the float tube—
far right and center of photo.

Wild Irises bordered Knotts Valley reservoir on the June day
we visited.

* How did you do on the Crayola challenge?  Scrutinizing the photo I identified fourteen of the sixteen hues: orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, blue-green, blue-violet, red-orange, white, yellow-green, yellow-orange, brown and black.  That excludes only red and carnation pink, and I'm sure those two colors could be found elsewhere between the lakes.


  1. Wow! Signed in after a long hiatus and the first thing I notice is your post on the strangely named Onion Valley :)

    This must be among your bestest posts Rita, for the tremendously vibrant pictures of a beautiful place. Without a water body, no place can be beautiful, have you noticed?

    1. Onion Valley is a strange name for this part of Nevada and I don't know how the area got its name. I'll have to check it out.

      Nevada doesn't have much water—it's our nation's driest state—but the most scenic parts of the state do seem to be graced by the presence of lakes or streams.

      The "vibrant" photos were taken on slide film. Amazing, aren't they?

  2. Rita, I'll have to begin by saying simply "WOW"!

    Try as one might, it's doubtful if the neon signs in the glitzier part of Nevada could ever duplicate the stunning colors you experienced at the reservoirs at Onion Valley and Knotts Valley.

    It's easy to understand why your campsite high above Onion Valley Reservoir ranks as your favorite campsite of all time. And yes, from viewing your photos and reading your descriptions, I would totally agree that it is indeed well worth the commitment of time and effort to access these colorful masterpieces so skillfully created by Mother Nature.


    1. Hi John,

      For many people, the glitz and neon of Las Vegas is all they ever need to see of Nevada. Sad, isn't it? Especially when Mother Nature has provided so many other wonderful attractions in the state. (And that's why I'm doing this series!)

      Thanks for the "Wow" comment. I agree!

  3. Once again, you've allowed this former Nevadan to explore through your words and photographs a piece of the state I'd never seen before. Thank you. And thank you for the Nevada series which I can point to when I try to tell others what beautiful, natural places can be found in Nevada. I thought your crayon challenge was great fun, but I couldn't remember all the colors in a box of Crayolas beyond the basic eight. I know I could have googled them, but that would have felt like cheating!

    1. When I decided to start exploring Nevada I got out a map and noticed all the mountain ranges, streams and lakes far, far away from the major cities. "Let's go there," I said to Tim. And that's how I discovered these stunning and remote places. I'm pleased to hear that you might use this series to educate others as to Nevada's natural wonders.

      Full disclosure: I DID google the colors in a 16 count box of Crayolas. I knew the box contained composite colors—the blue-greens, red-oranges, etc.—and I was pretty sure I could find most of those shades in the photo, but no, I couldn't recall them from memory either.
      I'm glad that you appreciated the challenge, Janet!