D. Zapata 2021, Douglas County Cultural Overview, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno

Introduction

Douglas County is located directly south of Carson City, and about 40 minutes to the south of Reno. To the west lies South Lake Tahoe and Markleeville both cities landing on the California side of the border. In this same area, at the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Carson Valley comprises of Douglas’s beautiful views to Gardnerville, Genoa, Minden, and Topaz Lake. The county seat sits in Minden, where it has for over 100 years. At approximately 738 square miles, Douglas is home to rich history, outdoor recreation, and a community of 47,632 individuals (DETR, 2017). The US-50 takes you up the scenic western border of the county, while the US-395 takes you north and south from Gardnerville Ranchos up to Indian Hills.

History

Douglas was one of the nine original counties as part of the first Nevada Territorial Legislature. Its county seat then, Genoa, is the oldest permanent settlement in Nevada. It was settled in 1851, first known as Mormon Station, and as a part of a number of communities established as trading posts and centers for ranching and farming (see Parks and Recreation History of Douglas County). Genoa was also a popular stop for supplies and goods for those traveling west during the historic gold rush.

Genoa remained the Douglas County seat until 1916, when much of the town was destroyed by fire, and its population dwindled. Nevertheless, Genoa to this day remains an active Nevadan community with two landscaped parks, two educational museums, a huge non-denominational church rented out for community events. Every year since 1919, the Genoa Candy Dance is celebrated. Gardnerville was founded differently than Genoa, which was founded mostly on need. The history of Gardnerville is best summed up by the Carson Valley Nevada site, in that the town “was born into a mix of local economic downturn, marital discord, and prescient thoughts of ‘what could be’ in a dry, sagebrush covered flat.” As the population in nearby Genoa slowly dropped throughout the 1870s, Gardnerville was formed one building at a time. Property was bought out in the sagebrush 
land, and a house was moved to become the Gardnerville Hotel in 1881, followed by a post office a few months later. Eventually the rights were sold to someone else, and additional services were added until Gardnerville became the ideal place to stop for those looking to travel through the 
county.

Minden, the current county seat, was unique in that the town was planned and presented to the 
County Commission before a single building was built.

Landscape and Climate

Much of Douglas County sits well above sea level with cities such as Minden and Gardnerville sitting at around 4,600 ft, its lowest point sitting at around 1,200 ft. Douglas is full of sunshine about 250 days out of the year, well above the national average of 205 sunny days per year. Snowfall far outpaces rainfall within the county, at 121 inches of snow to 17 inches of rain, much of this occurring in the Tahoe Basin.

Mountain ranges fill the county on both the western and eastern fronts. To the west you can find the  Sierra Nevada and Carson Ranges, and to the east the Pine Nut Mountains. Similar to many counties in Nevada, shrublands (46%) and grasslands (27%) cover much of the area in Douglas. Unlike 
many parts of Nevada, however, Douglas County is made up of 16% forest lands. Much of the forest lands run along the US-50 near Lake Tahoe and the communities of Skyland, Lakeridge, Lincoln Park, and Glenbrook. They fall into the Toiyabe National Forest, and much of the forest land is contained in the Carson Range.

Of the 738 square miles that make up Douglas County, 28 square miles are water. The county is home to  a portion of the beautiful Lake Tahoe on its western border. To the south, Douglas also shares Topaz Lake with its neighbors in California. Right in the center of the county, one will find the 
Dangberg Reservoir system. Flowing from the southwestern border near Mud Lake, the Carson River flows across Douglas, as it exits the county near Indian Hills in the north. Best explained by the Carson Valley Nevada site, Douglas is home to a variety of landscape, from mountain ranges of 
foliage and pine to reservoirs for water sports and fishing. As Douglas County is home to a stretch of Lake Tahoe, there are a number of outdoor recreation opportunities associated with this area. 

From hiking and mountain biking when the weather is mild, to the fantastic winter sports at the Lake Tahoe ski resorts. Thousands of locals and tourists flock to this area of the country each year to experience all that Tahoe has to offer.

Community and Events

In addition to outdoor recreation, those looking to experience Douglas County will find an abundance of opportunities to do so. Minden’s historic downtown is home to craft fairs, concerts, and farmers markets year around. For over 100 years the Carson Valley Days event has been run most 
recently in Gardnerville, usually held in the month of June and spans five days.

The Genoa Candy Dance is held in September each year, where attendees experience 300 craft and food vendors, along with live music. This event was first conceptualized as a fundraiser for purchasing street lights in the community. When the community realized the electric bill needed to be paid the event became a yearly occurrence and has remained a tradition since 1919.

Honoring veterans, the Aviation Roundup Show is held at the Minden-Tahoe Airport in October, featuring both national and international performers. For the fisherman, Topaz Lake fishing season opens up on the first of each year and runs through September (Signature Events, n.d).
October in the Carson Valley is a time for many local events. The Corley Ranch Harvest Festival and Pumpkin Patch, Fall Harvest and Scarecrow Festival, Slaughterhouse Lane Coffin Races, and the Carson Valley Arts Council Winter Concert Series begins.

The Stateline area is a year-round, world class entertainment and recreation destination. It is home to Heavenly Mountain Resort, one of the top five most scenic ski resorts in the nation, and numerous major casinos. Lake Tahoe and the South Shore draw millions of visitors annually. Conditions are optimal for winter skiing and snowboarding trips. Edgewood Lodge also provides an acclaimed, lakefront golf course which is home to the annual American Century Celebrity Championship. Stateline is a setting for magic,  a catalyst for adventure, a world-class destination to discover and enjoy.
 

Learn more about the author(s)

 

Also of Interest:

 
Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park
Demographic Characteristics for Douglas County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
B. Borden, L. Thomas, J. Lednicky, D. Zapata, L. Chichester 2021, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno
Ophir Canyon Ghost Town
Demographic Characteristics for Lander County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
B. Borden, L. Thomas, J. Lednicky, D. Zapata 2021, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno
Hay Bales in a Field in Lyon County, NV
Demographic Characteristics for Lyon County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
B. Borden, L. Thomas, J. Lednicky, D. Zapata, A. Ahmed 2021, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno
Mineral County Roadside Marker
Demographic Characteristics for Mineral County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
B. Borden, L. Thomas, J. Lednicky, D. Zapata, S. Emm 2021, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno
Joe's Tavern in Hawthorne, Nevada
Economic Characteristics for Mineral County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
B. Borden, L. Thomas, J. Lednicky, D. Zapata, S. Emm 2021, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno
 

Associated Programs

genoa sign

Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP) - Douglas

NEAP aims to provide county, state and federal agencies, with quantitative and qualitative baseline data for Douglas County

Thomas Harris speaking to group of Nevada Economic Assessment Project Stakeholders at an update meeting

Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP)

The Nevada Economic Assessment Project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal and environmental characteristics, trends and impacts. The data can be used for land use and project planning, grant writing and overall policy assessment.

 

Extension Director's Office | On the campus of University of Nevada, Reno