Information for Visitors to Fort Churchill State Historic Park
When you first enter Fort Churchill State Historic Park, you pass the old post cemetery. Soldiers buried there were moved to Carson City in 1884, but members of the Buckland family are still in residence. The Visitor Center has exhibits on the military history of Fort Churchill, about Native Americans that inhabited the area, and the natural features of the surrounding countryside. There are great views across the fort site and along the Carson River. Day use and camping fees vary among Nevada state parks. Consult the park fees web page for updated information. Learn even more by visiting the Ft. Churchill Facebook page.
What to See and Do at Fort Churchill State Historic Park
Camping & Picnicking - The 20-site campground is in a grove of big cottonwood trees by the Carson River. The sites are flat and many are pull-through for RVs. There is drinking water, but no RV hook-ups. An RV dump station is located at the campground entrance. There is a group camping site and a picnic area is next to the campground. Group camping is by reservation only; contact the park office at (775) 577-2345 to reserve this area.
Hiking - There is a trail along the Carson River from the campground downstream to Buckland Station and its historic exhibits. A separate path leads completely around the old fort site and ruins, with informational signs along the way explaining what the buildings were and how soldiers lived in this remote outpost. The best time to hike either route is morning or late afternoon. There is no shade at all around the fort ruins and it can be brutally hot in the summer.
Hazards & Hassles - As already mentioned, it can be very hot at Ft. Churchill in the summer. Insects can be thick at times, especially in the trees and down by the river. Rattlesnakes are among the native wildlife, so watch your step while hiking and walking around. Because there are no hook-ups in the campground, people with RVs tend to run generators. You'll have to decide whether or not this is bothersome, but I don't care for it.
Fort Churchill State Historic Park Location
Fort Churchill State Historic Park is about 60 miles from Reno / Sparks on main highways. The easiest way to get there is to go east on I80 about 30 miles to the Highway 95A exit at Fernley. Follow the signs through town and go south on 95A to 4-way stop at U.S. 50 in Silver Springs. Continue another 8 miles and turn right into the park when you see the prominent sign. The official park phone number is (775) 577-2345 and the street address is 1000 Highway 95A, Silver Springs, NV 89429.
Why Fort Churchill is a Nevada State Park
When you look at the ruins today, it's hard to imagine that Fort Churchill was literally at the crossroads of major events when it was built in 1860. What is now Nevada was still part of Utah Territory. Some settlers were moving in to stay while others continued on to California. Conflicts with the original area residents, Paiute and Bannock Indians, were becoming more frequent and violent. The Pony Express route and emigrant trails following the Carson River passed right through this spot. Back east, the Civil War was getting started and wealth from the gold and silver mines was being eyed by both sides. All these circumstances made Fort Churchill an important depot for the Nevada Military District and a base for troops to protect a variety of area interests.
By 1869, things had settled down and the fort was decommissioned. A local rancher, Samuel Buckland, bought the buildings for $750 and salvaged what he wanted for his Buckland Station. The two-story house he built is still standing next to the Carson River and is part of today's state park. After initially declining to do so in 1871, the State of Nevada eventually acquired title to Fort Churchill and it became a Nevada State Park in 1957.
Of course, there is much more to the story, which you will find at the Fort Churchill State Historic Park website and on Facebook. You can also download the Ft. Churchill park brochure before heading out for a visit.
More Nevada State Parks
Ft. Churchill is only one of Nevada's great state parks. Check out the Map of State Parks page to see where more parks are throughout the Silver State. You can also visit the Nevada State Parks Facebook page to get additional information.