We began our recent exploration of the Nevada High Desert with a drive onto Antelope Range. We accessed Antelope Range via the village of Imlay on I-80, about 30 miles west of Winnemucca. The route we traveled crossed the Humboldt River and circumvented the east end of Rye Patch Reservoir. We were delighted and amazed to discover that as of June 29, 2011 the long-parched east end of Rye Patch Reservoir is shimmering and blue due to the heavy snowfall and rains of the past winter and spring, after prior prolonged years of drought. We viewed the reservoir at sunset so it was impossible for us to determine the depth of the water or to estimate how long it will endure.
Nevertheless we optimistically made plans for rafts and a canoe; and perhaps our buoyancy is merited. “Bathymetric Reconnaissance” is a term used to describe the measure of the ratio of storage to evaporation in water storage facilities such as Rye Patch Reservoir. A study published in 1972 by the State of Nevada and performed by the USGS in conjunction with the Nevada Division of Water Resources determined that among the three major Pershing County Reservoirs–the Upper and Lower Pitt-Taylor Reservoirs and the Rye Patch Reservoir–the Rye Patch Reservoir provides the most efficient storage with the lowest percentage of evaporation.