From Walker Lake, head north through the village of Schurz, then take ALT US 95 northwest 24 miles to the peaceful town of Yerington. Located smack dab in the center of Mason Valley, Yerington’s 2,800 or so residents take pride in a quietly cosmopolitan way of life, where miners, ranchers and farmers work hard all week and play outdoors all weekend. Founded in the early 1870s as Pizen Switch (reportedly because a local tavern served a concoction likened to poison, or pizen), Yerington was incorporated in 1907.
Stop in at Yerington Grammar School No. 9, 22 Highway 208, a 1912 Italian Renaissance Revival schoolhouse that has been restored and converted into the Jeanne Dini Performing Arts Center, complete with a modern 210-seat theatre. The Lyon County Museum, 215 South Main Street, 702-463-6576, certainly lives up to its claim as one of the best rural museums in the state. The museum is actually a complex of restored buildings containing rooms decorated with turn-of-the-century items as well as displays of Nevada’s mining industry, Native Americans, flora and fauna. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 1 PM to 4 PM. April through October, it opens at 10 AM on Saturdays only. The museum is run by volunteers, so donations are welcome. The friendly folks at the Mason Valley Chamber of Commerce, 227 South Main Street, 702-463-2245, are always eager to help a traveler.
Two beautifully unique outdoor meccas are found south of Yerington. The West Walker River has carved a narrow passage through Wilson Canyon, where anglers, campers and hikers can recreate between the gray volcanic cliffs for hours. Fossils, geodes and petrified wood dot the local hills, while golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and prairie falcons can be seen overhead. Fishermen can expect to find rainbows and brownies, as well as whitefish. To reach Wilson Canyon, take Bridge Street west one mile to NV 339 south and drive 12 miles to NV 208. Head west into the gorgeous gorge. Continue east on NV 208 for another six miles through Wellington to Upper Colony Road and turn right to reach Wellington Deer Range. In colder months, hundreds of mule deer descend out of the Pine Nut Mountains to feed here in Smith Valley.
North of Yerington, Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area is a prime spot for walking and wildlife watching. The 12,000 acres of sagebrush basin and wetlands is home to waterfowl, birds of prey, small mammals and a large population of Rio Grande turkeys. The marsh on the west side is open for angling, promising catfish, bass and bluegill. Camping is restricted to special areas The adjacent Mason Valley Trout Hatchery is open 8 AM to 5 PM seven days a week. To reach the WMA, go north on ALT US 95 4½ miles to Miller Lane, turn right and drive three miles to Lux Lane. Turn left and head two miles to the fish hatchery.
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