The mission of the Galena Creek Recreation Area and Visitor Center is to encourage understanding, appreciation and wise use of the natural, cultural, and historical resources of the Galena Canyon area and the Mount Rose Scenic Byway. This area is full of local culture and history. Interpretive panels and exhibits housed here tell the story of Galena.
HISTORY OF THE AREA: In the 1860s, a nearby township was founded and developed as a gold mining property called "Galena." Due to high contents of lead sulfate mix in the gold, it was not economical to mine here and the town grew into a lumbering center, shipping timber to the Comstock silver mines in Virginia City. Galena housed sawmills, stores, schools and saloons. Two devastating fires wiped out the Galena Township and timber trade in the late 1860's, when the town was finally abandoned, but remnants of this former town are still evident today.
Innovative snow surveying techniques used around the world also began here. In 1906, the 10,776-foot Mt. Rose, was used as an "outdoor lab" by Dr. James E. Church, Jr. Dr. Church, a Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, perfected a method of measuring depth and water content of snow, now known as the "Nevada System," which is still used today. In 1980, the north summit of Mt. Rose was officially named "Church Peak."
Washoe County purchased the property in 1931 for $10/acre, is the former site of the Holcomb Ranch, and is the oldest park in the Washoe County Park system. A campground was built along with the stonehouse warming hut, located at the south end of the property. In 1948 the Galena Creek Fish Hatchery was built, but only operated for four years as a working hatchery. A devastating flood damaged the building, closing the hatchery. It has since been renovated and is open for use as a community building and is a State Historic Structure.
In the 1960s the University of Nevada's Ski Team ran a training/ski jump area here, which was also a back up location for the 1960 Olympic Games at nearby Squaw Valley. Today, this area is still used for winter recreation activities including snowshoeing.
In 1980, Camp We Ch Me Lodge was constructed for the Campfire Girls, which has since been renovated and is available to the public as a community building.
PRESENT DAY: This Galena Creek Recreation Area was constructed with hopes of acquainting locals and visitors with the unique history of the Galena area, while encouraging natural habitat preservation, through stewardship.
Over a $3.9 million project, the Galena Creek Recreation Area, a cooperative venture between Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space, and USDA Forest Service consists of a 2,500 square foot Visitor Center, pedestrian and equestrian trails/trailhead, restrooms, group and individual picnic sites and access to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the Mount Rose Wilderness. Funding was provided through a voter approved bond issue and numerous grants, including National Scenic Byway and Recreation Trails Programs funding from the Federal Highways Administration.
The Recreation Area is constructed on United State Forest Service property and Washoe County operates and maintains the facilities through a Special Use Permit. Washoe County has sub-leased the Visitor Center building to Great Basin Institute (GBI), a local-private/non profit organization. GBI is staffing the Visitors Center and offers diverse public education and interpretive programming. The Center also includes a weather station, interpretive exhibits, gift shop and book store. In November of 2010, permanent exhibits will be installed informing visitors about the culture and history of this unique area. Residents and visitors are invited to utilize the new recreation facilities throughout this remarkable landscape. Citizen participants are needed to hold exhibits, teach educational and interpretive programs, volunteer to work at the store, work with the County's Adopt-A-Park/Trail program and many other interesting opportunities.