As the summer heats up, you don’t have to battle the crowds at Tahoe for a chance to paddle and play in the sun. The Sparks Marina is right here in town, and it offers wildlife, pockets of solitude and beachfront amenities—if you know where to look.
Nestled between Legends Bay and Western Village, right next to Interstate 80, the Sparks Marina is impossible to miss. The official parking lot is on the northwest side, off of Howard Drive and Lincoln Way. This park isn’t fenced in (except along the freeway), so it is easily accessible from almost every side.
An underground aquifer feeds this former gravel pit with fresh water. It takes in a few million gallons each day (much of which is then pumped into the Truckee River), and the city of Sparks has steadily developed the marina to become a recreation jewel, full of year-round outdoor opportunities. It averages around 60 feet deep, is stocked regularly with fish, and is monitored for healthy water conditions.
At the main entrance to the marina, a plethora of things to do are clustered between the parking lot and this 77-acre body of water. Picnic tables and shelters dot the grassy areas around the northwest corner, and in the summer, Goodi’s concession stand serves treats and beverages during business hours. A new playground offers entertainment for children and people not looking to interact with the water.
Along the north edge, several sand volleyball courts provide opportunities for friendly competition. Restrooms are open to the public, so you can stay all day. A paved, ADA-compliant 2-mile-long path rings the entire lake. On the south shore, a fenced-in dog park allows pups to roam freely—and even swim if they are so inclined.
While the western side is full of parks and recreation opportunities, the northeastern area is lined with condos and apartments—and the actual marina portion of the Sparks Marina. Sparks Water Bar has outdoor seating with a view, allowing you to enjoy refreshments while overlooking all the activities in the lake. For morning people, Lighthouse Coffee can be a great place to stop for a caffeine break. You can drive directly to these businesses or park on the other side of the lake and take the scenic path all the way around.
If you’re trying to beat the heat, this lake is more than just a pretty picture. During the summer, lifeguards are on duty five days a week at the designated swimming beach near the concession stand. Boat ramps make launching your craft in the water straightforward for an afternoon of paddling, motoring (electric only) or even sailing.
Local shops have paddleboards and kayaks available for rent. If you’re ready to own your own watercraft, Scheels at Legends is perfectly placed for perusing. Calm mornings on the marina are ideal for paddling, while windy afternoons can create excellent conditions for sailing, kite-surfing or windsurfing. Though it may not look huge, it’s easy to find solitude among flocks of seagulls resting in the middle of the marina, or turtles sunning themselves on logs at the back of the canal on the eastern side.
The marina is stocked regularly, so fishing is a great way to pass the time; just make sure you have your Nevada fishing license, and follow all the fishing rules and regulations. If you’re feeling extra-adventurous, you can also scuba dive (with a partner or instructor) in the marina. Not certified yet? Instructors right here in Reno can teach you how and get you on your way to exploring your local waters.
It’s easy to overlook the Sparks Marina as you zoom past it on the interstate. While it may not have the grandeur of Lake Tahoe, this unassuming little space is full of surprises and opportunities for fun. It holds a little something for just about everyone and is truly a Sparks treasure.