Swan Lake is an historic wetland, dating to thousands of years, used by the native Washoe Tribe pre-dating Europeans as a hunting grounds. The area consists of permanent wetlands of 50-100 acres during drought conditions, and 1,000 acres during high water cycles. Emergent vegetation of cattails and two species of bulrush demarcate the wetlands, with uplands of sage and native grasses. Perennial pepperweed (tall whitetop) has invaded some of the area. Additionally, the encroachment of the emergent marsh vegetation over the last five years has eliminated open water areas near the western side of the IBA (near the boardwalk). Ownership is 90% public land (BLM, Washoe County, Nevada Military) and the remaining private inholdings. Effort has been made in recent years to acquire private parcels from willing sellers using Land and Water Conservation Funds.
Swan Lake is an active interpretive site with kiosks, reader boards, boardwalk int eh marsh, bus parking and trails. It is being managed through the Washoe County Parks and Recreation Department through guidelines drawn up by the eight cooperating agencies, including the Lahontan Audubon Society.
The Lemmon Valley Sewage Treament facility's system of ponds are immediately adjacent to the lake itself and provide nesting, feeding and migatory resting for significant bird populations, especially when the lake is frozen over in winter months.
Swan Lake contines to serve as an important site for birds of all seasons. There are resident birds that nest, raise broods here, and stay all year. Other birds are winter residents, coming after raising their broods in the more northern lands and include the namesake Tundra Swans. Still other species depend on Swan Lake for the stopover needs of migration, staring a few days to a few weeks, and include large numbers of shorebirds and wading birds.
As the Reno/Sparks area continues to be one of the fastest growing populations of the West, the preservation of a natural wetland system becomes ever more important for the avian population that has depended on its water and vegetation for survival.