Wander over yonder to Carson Valley: Follow in footsteps of legends (Opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wander over yonder to Carson Valley: Follow in footsteps of legends (Opinion)

Corley Raper / Guest column
Corley Raper holding the American flag riding her horse in the Carson Valley.
Provided/Corley Raper

While Lake Tahoe offers internationally celebrated natural beauty, America’s largest alpine lake, and outdoor splendor all 12 months of the year, unbridled history, wide open landscapes and western events await just 20 minutes down the mountain in Carson Valley. A visit to Carson Valley not only offers a way to authentically interact with the Wild West unlike anywhere else, but an opportunity to become part of the Nevada story.

German immigrant and Carson Valley Legend H.F. Dangberg arrived in what would become Nevada’s Carson Valley in 1853. Immediately, he got to work building his ranching empire which would soon create the bread basket for nearby Virginia City’s burgeoning population. He donated land for the V&T Railway which quickly prompted the development of Minden — one of the very first master planned communities in the country. Through the years, Dangberg’s ranching empire swelled to nearly 50,000 acres, and supported cattle and sheep, vegetable crops, and many other products people in the region depended on to survive.

The front sign of the Corley Ranch in the Carson Valley.
Provided/Corley Ranch

There’s no better way to celebrate Dangberg’s legacy than from his very own estate, The Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park in Minden, which opens a window to the two things Carson Valley does the very best: some of the oldest, most picturesque barns and structures in Nevada borders nestled beneath jaw-dropping snow-capped peaks and a big blue sky above. The Dangberg Ranch offers unbeatable access to one of the oldest barns in Nevada, a glimpse of how they did things way back then with countless relics and artifacts that belonged to several generations of Dangbergs, and big mountain panoramas Carson Valley is known for.

River Fork Ranch in the Carson Valley.
Provided/Carson Valley Visitors Authority

Keep the Old West vibes going a little further down the road in picture-perfect Gardnerville, for another fascinating chapter of the Carson Valley story. Like Minden, find sprawling, stately ranches tucked beneath soaring peaks, and a historic main street with some of the best bars and restaurants in all of Nevada. Gardnerville originally got its start in 1879 as a relied upon stop on the way to Bodie, California, where prospectors and early pioneers could rest their horses and freight teams, grab a bite to eat, and stay overnight.

Germans, Danish, and Basque strongly influenced Gardnerville, and you can still feel that at many ranching properties that are open for special events throughout the year. A visit to Corley Ranch offers guests an opportunity to experience a real working ranch and explore their nearly 300 acres of lush pasture. Corley raises cattle and other animals, farms, produces hay, pumpkins and more. It’s a true testament to the western culture and history of Carson Valley and was even the filming site of the 1950s movie, “Wild is the Wind,” showcasing Carson Valley and the ranch featuring Anthony Quinn.

Today, special events throughout the year provide unique and fun ways to introduce kids to the ways of a working ranch. This June 2-4, the Back Country Festival invites guests to Corley Ranch to celebrate western heritage with a country western music festival. Featuring artists like Midland, Ashley McBryde and Paul Cauthen, the festival is sure to be a fun way to celebrate western culture.

Danberg Ranch.
Provided/Carson Valley Visitors Authority

Before you head back up the mountain, no trip to Carson Valley is complete without experiencing historic Genoa. Genoa all began with Nevada’s first permanent settlement, a fort that protected early pioneers from a variety of threats in an otherwise lawless terrain. Genoa was a final stop of refuge for many pioneers before they faced the rugged Sierra Nevada and many decided to skip the trek altogether and called Carson Valley home for good. And it’s not every day you get to stroll across a wooden boardwalk and threshold into a bar scene that hasn’t changed much in its 170 years of existence. The Genoa Bar, which is sometimes called the Genoa Thirst Parlor, is Nevada’s oldest bar and has been serving up everything from frosty cold beer, bathtub gin, Bloody Mary’s and more across that original wooden bar counter since 1853, 11 years before Nevada even became an official state.

Genoa Bar in Genoa, Nev.
Provided/Carson Valley Visitors Authority

Genoa’s Western Heritage Days is the town’s annual event to honor its place in history of the state and the west. Set for April 28-30 this year, the event offers attendees western music concerts, cowboy poetry, Chautauqua actors, activities for children, Native American demonstrations and a whole lot more, all celebrating the town’s rich western culture. A progressive dinner offers ticketed attendees a chance to experience Genoa’s dining establishments, getting just enough of a taste to know a trip back is a must. The Saturday festivities are free and include an old-style horse and wagon parade.

As you make that trek back up over the mountain and return to Lake Tahoe, experience the very route some of Nevada’s first modern-day inhabitants would’ve along Kingsbury Grade, which dates all the way back to 1860. Shortening the trek from Sacramento to Virginia City by ten whole miles, Kingsbury Grade was originally a toll road, but is now a preferred way to travel back and forth between Lake Tahoe and historic Carson Valley for visitors and locals alike. A look from one of several scenic overviews and it’s easy to see why it’s highly worth “wandering over yonder”.

Corley Raper is a multi-generation cowgirl and rancher who appreciates all things related to ranching and the western way of life. She believes in keeping western heritage alive. Corley strives to continue the legacy of her family by promoting western culture and invite visitors to explore all there is in the beautiful Carson Valley.

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