Stillwater and Carson Lake Wetlands

Stillwater is Nevada's largest wetland and a vital staging and nesting area on the Pacific Flyway.

Stillwater is Nevada's largest wetland and a critical staging and nesting area on the Pacific Flyway. The Conservancy worked with partners to pioneer an innovative water-rights purchase program to save these crucial wetlands.


25,000 acres of wetlands.


Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Lahontan Valley, near the community of Fallon, sixty miles east of Reno (view map).


More than a quarter million waterfowl, as well as hundreds of thousands of shorebirds. Species include American white pelicans, Double-crested cormorants, White-faced ibis, Long-billed dowitcher, Black-necked stilt, American avocet and several species of egrets, herons, gulls, and terns.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and the nearby Carson Lake Wetlands had shrunk to less than 10,000 acres. Without human intervention, these wetlands could have disappeared, which would have been devastating to the migratory birds that rely on it as a key stopover point on the Pacific Flyway. Learn more about the Carson River watershed.


State of Nevada, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Waterfowl Association, and local parties in the Lahontan Valley including the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District and Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Since 1989, when an innovative water rights purchase program was pioneered, the Conservancy, State of Nevada, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nevada Waterfowl Association have purchased close to 30,000 acre-feet of water rights in close to fifty transactions. These purchases have put these internationally significant wetlands back on the map.

The Nature Conservancy has worked closely with local parties in the Lahontan Valley to address community concerns about the potential impacts of the water rights acquisition program. As a result, managers of the Great Basin's premier wetlands are now able to rely on water rights to protect the wetlands during dry years. 


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