Trip Report- Back From a Week in Central Nevada

We have just returned from another visit to central Nevada, specifically the Lahontan Valley in Nevada’s Great Basin. The town of Fallon, where I grew up, sits in the middle of the valley. This is always our base camp, and we do day trips and overnights from there. On this trip we visited Lake Lahontan for some swimming, Grimes Point to view petroglyphs and to run, the town of Yerington, Stillwater Marsh and many irrigation ditches for birding, and we watched fighter jets and helicopters fly all around the valley. We also visited the site of a recent jet crash near the navy base southeast of Fallon- this was one of Nicolai’s favorite parts of the trip.

Jet Crash
The local news outlet, the Lahontan Valley News, reported on 08 July, 2010 that an A-4 Skyhawk jet had crashed just north of the Fallon Naval Air Station. The pilot ejected safely, bringing the jet down in a field just outside the base. No one was hurt, and no property was damaged. Had the pilot not brought the jet down where he did, the situation could have been much worse. The news report stated that the jet was  contractor-owned and the pilot a civilian, tasked to simulate enemy aircraft for training purposes.

The point of impact, the bank of a ditch flanking a field. Fill dirt was brought in to rebuild the ditch bank. The photo is taken in the direction of the debris scatter and ensuing fire.

A tree on the right side of the point of impact, possibly clipped by the jet's wing. Note debris still embedded in the tree.

Nicolai was fascinated by the crash site, and we approached it as crash investigators might. We spent a couple of hours at the site, with Nicolai photographing and drawing the point of impact, the burn scar, debris field, and the bits of debris still at the site.

A piece of debris at the crash site. There were many small fragment of aluminum lying around the field. Most were missing all the rivets that held the aircraft together, torn out upon impact.

Jet crashes are unfortunately not uncommon for the area, with the Fallon Naval Air Station being a primary training center for pilots. Most of the crashes I am aware of have occurred on the bombing ranges, and not in inhabited areas, as this one did.

Grimes Point
Every visit to Fallon requires a trip to Grimes Point Archaeological Area. The Grimes Point Petroglyph Trail is a short walk, maybe 1/2 mile, that takes you by at least 25 boulders bearing rock art that is as much as 7000 years old. Nearby caves hold clues to the ancient past and were used for storage, living, and burial. The more important caves have been secured, but there are tours available of Hidden Cave. You can visit the Churchill County Museum for more information regarding the cave tour and the history of Fallon and the Lahontan Valley. Also see their PDF on the Hidden Cave tour and Grimes Point. See our June 2008 blog post on Grimes Point for more information on archaeological research at the site and on the prehistory of the area.

For runners and mountain bikers, Grimes Point is an excellent choice for long runs or rides. I usually manage to get in a couple of easy 2 or 3 hours runs on the dirt roads in the area. You can ride or run for hours on the endless dirt roads and tracks throughout the area.

Grimes Point, Fallon, Nevada. Petroglyphs on basalt boulder.

Grimes Point- petroglyphs on basalt boulder. Curvilinear forms represent snakes, circles, rainbow, and circle and line elements.

Grimes Point petroglyphs and basalt boulder, Fallon, Nevada.

Later style petroglyph, possible atlatl or human form. Vandalism at top of boulder caused by gunfire.

Birding in the Lahontan Valley
The area around Fallon has great birding- the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge east of Fallon is known internationally for its water and shore bird populations. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service web page for the refuge, over 280 species of birds have been seen there. This may seem like an unlikely number of species for an arid, high desert region. But the Carson Sink, the location of the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and the adjacent Fallon National Wildlife Refuge, marks the end point of the Carson River. It is here that water travelling through the Lahontan Valley forms the Stillwater Marsh. On this visit within the first half hour we had seen flocks of White-faced ibis, American avocets, American white pelicans, Great blue herons, various egrets, a few Golden eagles, and gulls and coots. If you are looking to fill out the shore birds on your life list, this is the place to do it.

For more on Fallon, Grimes Point, the Lahontan Valley, visit the Desert Explorer Nevada page. For more on desert hiking, backpacking, survival, and equipment visit the Desert Explorer website.

Check back in a few days for the second part of our Nevada Trip Report. We will cover new dining options in Fallon, visiting Lake Lahontan, and visiting the town of Yerington.


5 Responses to Trip Report- Back From a Week in Central Nevada

  1. […] Week in Central Nevada, Part 2 This is a follow-up post to our recent “Trip Report- Back From a Week in Central Nevada“. In this post I will cover some new dining options in the town of Fallon, a quick visit to […]

  2. Brian Hildreth says:

    I’m interested in the location of the A-4 crash. I look for many other crash sites. Was wondering if you might be able to give me a tip as to the location. I was out there today, just to the east of Crook Road. Didn’t see anything. Is it on the North side of Wildes Road or the South?

    • Hi Brain,
      I’m sure after nearly a couple of years the site is getting hard to see. My son and I will visit again this summer, and we plan to take a look just to see how it has changed, how time can affect a site like that which was so obvious just a couple weeks after the crash.

      The site is right there at the corner of of Crook and Wildes, northeast corner that is. Look for the NAS Fallon Nature Trail. Drive down the dirt road north of the canal and park at the trailhead. Walk down the path to the north. You will cross a small bridge if I remember correctly, and the trail goes north and west. Walk west here. The site will be on your left, to the south. I am not sure how far down the trail it is. It is a small area though and you can’t go far. The jet impacted on the south bank of the ditch that will be to your left. You might see pea gravel that was brought in to refill the impact area in the ditch bank. When we were there it was really obvious, the difference in materials and color.

      If you look south, and a little east from the correct location, you should see a burned out shed. (It may have fallen by now, or may have been taken down- who knows.) The impact point is right in that ditch bank in front of you. If you look closely at the trees there (Chinese Elms I think?) you will find where the right wingtip struck the tree, and should see debris embedded in the tree. These trees are to your right, or on the west. The jet was heading south, back to the base.
      Here is a link to the nature trail I am refering to.
      Unfortunately there is no map on this site for reference. But I think my description should get you there- it’s been almost two years since we were there, but I think I have it straight.
      Hope this helps.
      FYI, we visited a crash site last summer in Utah, just north of the San Juan River in Mexican Hat. One of the first river runners, Norman Nevills, who they say is responsible for commercial river trips, crashed and died there in the 30’s I think it was. We didn’t find the exact impact location, but did find the runway, and possibly the hill that he couldn’t get over. We’ll do more research before returning.
      We are also presently reading about the crash a B52 known as Felon 22 in 1961. That crash was south of Moab, right along the highway. It still isn’t clear whether the plane had nuclear devices on it. The gov’t says no, some people say yes. You know how that goes.
      Let us know how the search goes.
      Happy hunting,

  3. Brian Hildreth says:

    I will definitely go check it out. We were looking closer to Wildes road today, but we did go on the trail you mentioned. We found a few geocaches along the trail but didn’t think the crash site was out that far away from the road. Must have just missed it. I’m sure I can find the tree if it’s still there. thanks for the clues. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  4. […] County museum and the Grimes Point petroglyphs, and a visit to the jet crash site that we wrote about 2 years back . We took a look at the crash site to see what kind of changes occurred over the last 2 years since […]

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