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Finding Pyramid Lake: Nevada’s Largest Desert Lake

December 28, 2023
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Make the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout-inspired Ackerman Canyon variscite pendant all yours, right here.

Where else in the West can you reel in a 20-pound endemic trout, discover an ancient glacial sea that’s now the state’s largest naturally occurring desert lakes, embark on one of the first scenic highways in America, experience incredible birdwatching and the largest breeding grounds of the American White Pelican in the country, and immerse yourself in some of North America’s oldest human histories? Nowhere else but Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Beholding a certain mysticism that you have to see with your own two eyes and more mysteries than common knowledge, there really is no other place like it, Nevada or not.

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The ancestral homelands of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, or the Cui Ui Ticutta (Kooyoo Tukadu) which means “Trout Eaters” in Paiute, people have lived in this region for at least 14,000 years with off-limits petroglyph sites to prove it. Here, you won’t find a highrise-condo-consumed shoreline or chain grocery stores and restaurants, and that’s all because the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has remained in full control of their land—which just so happens to be the largest tribal lands by acreage and population in all of Nevada. But, that wasn’t without major conflict and loss, with the Pyramid Lake Paiute War happening right around the lake’s southern tip during 1860, which remains to be the deadliest conflict in Nevada history. 

Today, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe traditions live on in Wadsworth, Nixon, and Sutcliffe, and for non-tribal members, there’s no better place to get a taste of them than from Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum & Visitor Center. The only tribal museum in Nevada borders, the cultural center gives you a good place to land and spells out where non-tribal visitors are legally allowed to visit, along with fascinating prehistoric histories, more information about Glacial Lake Lahontan, the lives and stories of Chief Numaga, Sarah Winnemucca and Wovoka, details of the Pyramid Lake Paiute War and the calamitous arrival of the European Americans, traditional artwork(s), Nevada’s state fish or the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, and more ways you can engage with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s fascinating culture, realtime.

PBS Wild Nevada at Pyramid Lake

Excitingly enough, this episode of Finding Nevada Wild is a companion piece for PBS’ Wild Nevada, where I co-host an episode about Pyramid Lake with Chris Orr. Unpacking some of the many fascinating histories of Pyramid Lake, the episode features a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout-inspired Ackerman Canyon Variscite pendant which I made in honor of Nevada’s largest naturally occurring desert lake, and also wear while co-hosting the episode. 

See the full episode here.

PBS Wild Nevada Crew

Finding Nevada Wild YouTube

I’ve carefully studied and recorded all-things-Nevada for the past decade, and I couldn’t be more excited about this new project over on YouTube. Threading together my knowledge of one of the most overlooked places in America, my Song Dog Silver work, and love of Nevada backroads, if you like what you see I’d sure appreciate your subscription. Making this extra click is easy, free, and really helps me keep this whole thing going.

See my YouTube channel and subscribe right here.

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