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  • Writer's pictureJason Sheck

Fort Churchill and Wilson Canyon

We left the pavement in Dayton, NV and headed east on Fort Churchill Road. Like most of our outtings lately, this is another high desert route while we wait for the snow to melt in the Sierra and other more alpine environments. The road mostly followed the Carson River and there were intermittent views of it. A large chunk of the 15 miles on this road was within private property and well-marked with "No Trespassing" signs. The private property turned out to be the Nevada Automotive Test Center (NATC) facility. NATC's website indicates they test all kinds of vehicles but what we saw were countless military vehicles ranging from Humvees to full blown tanks. We also saw some rare (at least in the U.S.) Toyota Land Cruisers and Hiluxes, which I understand our military regularly uses in Afghanistan. If you check out this aerial photo, you'll see what I mean.

After passing the NATC we made it to our destination within a few minutes, the runes of Fort Churchill. The fort was constructed around 1860 and served as a supply outpost, not a defense facility. We learned from the interpretive signs that this meant there was no fence or wall around the facility. The buildings are an unusual adobe style that actually have with 20" thick walls. Most of the buildings were single story, but the officer's quarters were story and half, to accommodate their families that were allowed to live with while they were stationed at this base. Oddly enough the best-preserved building was the laundry building. Apparently the enlisted soldiers valued this facility so highly they actually contributed their own resources to finishing the building when the fort's budget ran low.

After visiting the fort we had a decision to make, head home on HWY 50 through Dayton and Carson City, or head south through Yerington and Minden/Gardnerville on a little bit longer route. We took the longer route and were rewarded with beautiful views of Wilson Canyon just east of Smith Valley on NV HWY 208. From there we made our way home visa US 395 and stopped at one of our favorite burger places in the region, Minden Meat and Deli. We always have the "My Girl" on a pretzel roll and we're never let down.

What did I learn?

Nevada does a great job with its state parks and the folks that maintain Fort Churchill State Historic Park have made walking through the runes interesting and informative.

A feel for what's left. Apparently there are no known photos of the fort so written descriptions have been used to make a best-guess. From the runes, you can tell the fort was a large square, probably 1/4 mile by 1/4 mile, with facilities and buildings such as the barracks and officer's quarters around the perimeter.

This is one of the officer's quarters, where you can actually see what's left of the second half-story.

When you're in NV, you're never too far from these friendly creatures. Personally, I hope to never see one.

One of the walls of Wilson Canyon.

In case you love the sound of a river/creek...

For scale, and by chance, my sister Kari and I stopped here in 2017 with the 4Runner and travel trailer on the way to Hawthorne, NV.

Here's the rig Kari and I took through this area (Spring 2017, Easter Weekend).

What a fun road to take home!

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