Exploring the Back Roads of Nevada: Bower's Mansion Regional State Park
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A Short History of Bower's Mansion
My family just bought a home on the East side of Washoe Lake in Washoe Valley, a valley located between Carson City and Reno Nevada on Highway 395.
From our dining room window we wake up to a view of Slide Mountain, a part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. At the foot of Slide Mountain, tucked into the trees, is Bower's Mansion Regional State Park and Davis Creek Campground.
Eilly Orrum purchased the land at the foot of Slide Mountain in 1856 with her first husband Alex Cowan. Alex left Eilly to move to Utah with the Mormons and a divorced Eilly moved to Virginia City.
Eilly started a boarding house at Gold Hill in Virginia City at the beginning of the mining boom. Most of her boarders could not pay with cash and gave Eilly pieces of their claims as payment. As the boom reached its peak she found herself with a small fortune.
Her fortune mixed with the money of her third husband Sandy Bowers was used to build their dream home at the foot of the Sierra Mountains.
J. Neely Johnson, the ex-Governor of California, worked on the mansion as its primary architect and used a Georgian Revival and Italianiate Architectural style. Eilly had stonecutters cut stone she had imported from her home country of Scotland.
The cost to build the mansion was around $300,000.00, which was an amazing amount of money in the late 1800's. Sandy and Eilly travelled around Europe to find furniture for their new home.
In 1863 their daughter Pearl died on an excursion overseas and in 1868 Sandy passed on also.
Through the tragedy of her loss Eilly found that the years of 1873-75 were when the mansion reached its peak of popularity. Eilly used her home to throw the Woman's Suffragete Ball and the Miner's Ball every year.
In 1876 Eilly fell on hard times and the mansion was foreclosed. Currently Bower's Mansion is owned by the Washoe County Parks Department and tours are available to enjoy the history of the mansion.
What do you consider important at your State's Parks?
Bower's Mansion Swimming Pool
The Bower's Mansion swimming pool reopened recently after a four year closure brought on by the recession.
The William Pennington Foundation donated $150,000 to renovate the pool.
My children both go to the Bower's Mansion Pool for their swim lessons in the summer. It is a great family pool to help cool down after a day of looking at the Mansion or playing at the playground located nearby.
Near the playground and the pool is about an acre of lawn that houses picnic tables and barbeques for a small family gatherings or a large family occasion.
The pool is open through August 18th of every summer from 12 pm to 5 pm it cost $5.00 for adults and $4.00 for children.
Davis Creek Campground
In the early 1980's the side of Slide Mountain slid into the valley destroying thousands of dollars worth of property and cattle. I was in High School at the time and remember the mud and destruction that was left in the path of the slide.
Bower's Mansion and Davis Creek were not touched by this destruction. Everytime we hike into the Sierra's I think about this and wonder how quickly history is covered up with wildlife.
If you drive next door to Bower's Mansion Regional Park you will see the sign for Davis Creek Regional Park.
Davis Creek Regional Park is surrounded by Jeffrey Pine and has a small scenic pond for its heart.
There are many day areas with picnic benches for small family gatherings or family occasions. We have used the park for a Father's Day or two and a Birthday.
All around the park are nature trails and group hikes are available.
There are sixty two overnight campgrounds with year round hot showers available.
There is also an equestrian trail head access to Toiyabe National Forest.
My family goes hiking on these trails just about every weekend in the summer and they seem to go on forever into the beauty that is the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
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Bower's Mansion Bluegrass Festival
Every year the Northern Nevada Bluegrass Association throws a hoedown at Bower's Mansion.
This yearly Bluegrass Festival brings talent from around the country and last from August 12th to August 17th.
Not only does the lawn by the pool have a makeshift stage but small perfomances are located throughout the park.
The event usually has ten or more Bluegrass Bands playing throughout the festival. Here is a list of some of last years performers:
Micheal Martin Murphey
Frank Sullivan and Dirty Kitchen
Anderson Family Bluegrass
and many more.
Camping is covered by the festival tickets and the campsites are located at the Davis Creek Regional Park campground.
In the evening after the main performances the true beauty of Bluegrass Festivals is witnessed.
A multitude of stringed instruments mixed with a few percussionists gather in tents amongst the campground and have improvisational jams all night long.
This experience in and of itself is worth the price of admission. I hope one day you can attend, or maybe if you find yourself travelling along Highway 395 between Carson City and Reno Nevada stop in at Bower's Mansion for a picnic and a swim. Happy travels and I will see you with the next installment of "Exploring the Back Roads..."