Nevada is no stranger to fascinating historical wonders, and the beautiful, mysterious Pyramid Lake is certainly among them. It’s not only the sprawling desert lake’s startling presence among the sagebrush and tufa rock formations nor its unusually high alkaline levels that make it so intriguing. It’s the fact that this ancient lake feels truly primitive. It may be just under an hour’s drive from Reno, but it seems light years away.
Encompassing 125,000 acres makes Pyramid Lake one of the largest natural lakes in the state. It’s also the biggest remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan, the colossal inland sea that once covered most of Nevada. The sight alone is staggering – a gigantic expanse of blue or gray, depending on the skies above, surrounded by unusual rock formations. But Pyramid’s significant role in the history of the Paiute Indian tribe also adds to its mystique and possibly to the many myths and tales surrounding it. Today, the lake is a component of the National Scenic Byways Program and the only byway in the country located entirely within a tribal reservation. Visitors can get a sense of the lake’s importance to the tribe with a trip to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitors Center. The multi-purpose museum features several exhibits and displays about the tribe’s culture and history, the natural history of the lake and why the Paiute people hold it in such esteem. Other exhibits are dedicated to the many creatures that make the lake their home, including the ancient Cui-ui fish and the world-famous Lahontan cutthroat trout. Fishing was once a survival resource for the Paiute people before becoming a business opportunity in the late 1880s. By the 1940s, however, the lake’s cutthroat trout were virtually gone. Restocking began in the following decade, and today, fishermen are drawn once again by the five- to 10- pounders cruising the waters.
Whether your visit to Pyramid Lake is prompted by the promise of great fishing, the allure of the warm, salty water, or simply to satisfy curiosity about the primitive lake, this is one Nevada wonder that simply shouldn’t be missed.