Fort Churchill State Historic Park

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Fort Churchill State Historic Park
Fort Churchill State Historic Park is a 4,461-acre (18.05 km 2) Nevada state park in Lyon County, Nevada, in the United States. Located south of the town of Silver Springs, it is in the Central Nevada Region of Nevada State Parks, and is one of seven National Historic Landmarks in the state of Nevada. The site is one end of the historic Fort Churchill and Sand Springs Toll Road. It is located on U.S. Route 95 Alternate, 8 miles (13 km) south of U.S. Route 50.

Fort Churchill

Fort History
In 1860 a band of Paiutes and Bannocks attacked three white settlers at Williams Station along the Carson River. In retaliation a small group of volunteer soldiers and vigilantes led by Maj. William Ormsby attacked the Native Americans in the so-called Pyramid Lake War. Ormsby's force was defeated and in response Colonel John C. Hays and Captain Joseph Stewart led a larger force of volunteers and U.S. Regulars to defeat the Natives at the Second Battle of Pyramid Lake. Captain Stewart, leading the Regular contingent, afterward established a permanent U.S. Army fort along the Carson River near the location of where the hostilities began at Williams Station. The post was named Fort Churchill for Sylvester Churchill, Inspector General of the U.S. Army. Construction on the fort began on July 20, 1860 and was completed in 1861. Built to provide protection for early settlers and the mail route along the Pony Express, the fort became an important supply depot for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Average strength during this time was 200 soldiers, but the post was abandoned in 1869 shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War. The abandoned buildings were sold at an auction for $750 after the state of Nevada declined to take possession of property.

State Park
On October 6, 1932 the state took control of the 200 acres (0.81 km 2) but two years later deeded the property to a local chapter of the DAR. On February 16, 1961 the fort and surrounding property were once again acquired by the state for the proclamation of a state historic site and was also declared a National Historic Landmark the same year. Aided by the National Park Service the fort ruins were partially restored to a state of arrested decay and the Civilian Conservation Corps helped build the current visitor center.

Carson River Ranches
In 1994, the state park service acquired 3,200 acres (13 km 2) of land east of the fort and Buckland Station. This corridor connects Fort Churchill with Lahontan State Recreation Area and provides habitat for diverse plants and wildlife.

Buckland Station
Samuel S. Buckland came to the area in 1859 to begin ranching. His ranch served as an important way station along the Overland Trail. The Pony Express also had a change of mounts at the ranch. When Fort Churchill was abandoned and being dismantled, Buckland salvaged materials to build the current two-story building seen today. The state park added this building to the Fort Churchill State Historic Site in 1997.

Park Facilities
The Visitor Center has exhibits on the history of Fort Churchill, Native Americans that inhabited the area, and natural features of the surrounding countryside. Within the Fort Churchill unit is a 20-site campground is situated along the Carson River within a grove of cottonwood trees with an adjacent group-camp and day-use picnic areas. There is a primitive camp further along the Carson River in the Carson River Ranches unit. Hiking trails include a self-guides trail around the fort ruins with interpretive signs explaining each of the buildings. The Orchard Trail runs along the Carson River from the campground to Buckland Station. A continuation of this trail runs the length of the Carson River in the Carson River Ranches unit. Twice a year the Nevada Civil War Volunteers put on a civil war encampment at Fort Churchill.