Sunday, May 15, 2011

Once enjoyable and used for gold panning: Joy Lake south of Reno

For a few years the Joy Lake neighborhood was the site of an authentic western ghost town, planned as a family attraction. Today, Joy Lake is a fishing lake south of Galena and the gated neighborhood of St. James's Village. The road named after this small lake, Joy Lake Road, ends for public traffic at the gate.  Before reaching the gate, however, you will pass the Brown's Creek Trailhead. From there, the Brown's Creek Trail provides access to the scenic forest and creek areas to the west of the lake. At a vista point a few steps off the main trail, where the pine forest opens to the manzanita and sagebrush slopes of Brown's Creek, you'll find views of Washoe Valley and the Virginia Range. Right there is an information panel, that gives details on Joy Lake (which you can't see) and the surprising story of the short-lived western town called Sundown Town:

Local Reno businessman George Carrell and partner Bob Talmadge, son of the famous comedian Buster Keaton, purchased 130 acres in 1960 and created Sundown Town. The park had 11 buildings including a jail, livery, saloon for kids, and a bar for adults.

One of the famous attractions was a Brahma Bull named Lightning, who was ridden with a saddle and taught to do tricks. The park had horse and burro rides as well as stagecoach and wagon rides. Joy Lake was used for water activities and as a place for visitors to experience gold panning.

Sundown Town closed in 1963, just three years after opening, but it provided a memorable western boomtown experience.

Try to listen, in your imagination, to the sounds of laughter, galloping horses, and echoing “YEEHAWS!” 

Keywords: outdours, recreation, tourism, history of Nevada, boom and bust, entertainment park, Buster Keaton

1 comment:

Randy Eads said...

As a kid I had the thrill of riding the brahma bull named Lightening. George Carrell was my 2nd Uncle but because his was my fathers age and they grew up together in the Imperial Valley he was always a direct uncle to me.

Although referenced to as a "Reno businessman" I guarentee he was 100% cowboy. After the close of Sundown Town George moved back to San Diego county and opened a hay and grain sales business. I also have fond memories of spending time at his place and making runs down to the Imperial Valley to pickup loads of hay.

Sadly Uncle George died about 12 years ago. He was a great guy.