In the mountainous backcountry of western Nevada sits a 48,000-acre tract of land left relatively untouched by human development. There are no roads, cars, or houses encroaching on the natural environment, just miles of scenic, serene land dubbed the Wovoka Wilderness.
This nature reserve became a protected wilderness area in 2014 and was named Wovoka after the Paiute spiritual leader who was born and raised in the region. Wovoka, a shaman mystic, is best known for starting the Ghost Dance movement that many Native American tribes in the West adopted at the end of the 19th century.
Today, the Great Basin landscape that shares Wovoka’s name is the last stretch of wildland in Nevada’s Lyon County. It’s located in the southern part of Pine Grove Hills, encompassing Bald Mountain. nearby to the south and east is Nevada’s newest state park, the Walker River State Recreation Area, along the East Walker River. It’s a diverse landscape that spans colorful canyons, forests, and beautiful mountain views.
The Wovoka Wilderness is also a natural habitat for a wide range of plants and animals, including bighorn sheep, bears, bobcats, golden eagles, bats, and butterflies. Aside from its natural beauty, this remote landscape is notable for being speckled with prehistoric cultural sites such as petroglyphs, drive fences, and house rings.
In more recent history, the land was occupied by early pioneers making their way out West. They built a number of structures, including Nine Mile Ranch (south of Wovoka Wilderness, in Fletcher Valley): the oldest remaining building in the county. Mark Twain wrote about it in his book Roughing It.
While undeveloped in recent years, the Wovoka Wilderness is very much open to exploration. The area is a dream come true for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, fly fishing, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, or bird-watching—or simply enjoying the tranquil silence.
Know Before You Go
The Wovoka Wilderness Area lies within the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. There are limited facilities, so visitors should plan accordingly and be sure to bring plenty of water. To protect the natural habitat, visitors are asked to carry out any waste and leave no trace. There are campgrounds and a visitors center at the newly opened Walker River State Recreation Area, which is located outside of, but near the Wokova Wilderness area.