Pyramid Lake – Reno, Nevada - Atlas Obscura

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Pyramid Lake

This Nevada lake holds its titular natural pyramid and, if the legends are true, a number of dangerous spirits. 


The enclosed waters of western Nevada’s Pyramid Lake get their name from the irregular rocky pyramid formations jutting above the waterline. Located within the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Reservation, the lake measures about 15 miles long and 11 miles wide, and reaches a depth of 350 feet.

From the shore of the lake, you can see conical stone formations rising out of the still waters. The limestone tufa formations were exposed when a larger ancient lake receded and today they are not only scenic but some are also home to a rare breed of pelican. The lake is home of the endangered cui-ui, a fish that once was the main food of the Paiute people. However, according to local legend, these majestic stones are nothing compared to what lies under the water.

Legends of “water babies” surround Pyramid Lake. These mysterious and dangerous spirits are said to mimic the sounds of crying babies to lure in victims. There are many legends surrounding the origin of the water babies. One version holds that premature or malformed infants were thrown into the waters to maintain the strength of the tribe. According to another version, a Paiute tribesman fell in love with a mermaid from the lake. When he brought her back to the tribe they rejected her, so she placed a curse on the lake.

No matter the version of the myth one subscribes to, supposedly the sounds of crying babies can be heard from the lake on some nights.

Know Before You Go

Before you go. You need to purchase a permit to be on the lake and have you water craft inspected by the reservation staff before it can go on the water. You can no longer drive on the back side of the lake without a reservation member. Sacred places such as the pyramid, the willows, needles and spider cave is off limits to non-reservation members. Do not climb or touch pyramid you will be arrested and fined

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