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Sparks, Nevada

Sparks, Nevada
Victorian Square in Sparks
Victorian Square in Sparks
Nickname(s): City of Promise
Motto: "It's Happening Here!"
Location in Washoe county
Location in Washoe county
Country United States
State Nevada
County Washoe
Founded 1905
 • Type Council-manager
 • Mayor Geno Martini (R)
 • Total 35.9 sq mi (93.0 km2)
 • Land 35.8 sq mi (92.6 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.4 km2)
Elevation 4,413 ft (1,345 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 90,264
 • Density 2,500/sq mi (970/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 89431–89436
Area code(s) 775
FIPS code 32-68400
GNIS feature ID 0856391
Website .uscityofsparks
Reference no. 88

Sparks is a city in Washoe County, Nevada, United States. It was established in 1905 and is located just east of Reno. The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau population count was 90,264.[1] It is the fifth most populous city in Nevada.

Sparks is located within the Reno–Sparks metropolitan area.


  • History 1
  • Geography and climate 2
    • Average monthly temperatures and precipitation 2.1
  • Demographics 3
  • Arts and culture 4
  • Parks and recreation 5
  • Education 6
    • Public schools 6.1
    • Private schools 6.2
  • Transportation 7
  • Notable people 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


In the early historical period, the area that is now Sparks was inhabited by the Washoe people. Euro-American settlement of the area began in the early 1850s, and the population density in the area remained very low until 1904 when the Southern Pacific Railroad built a switch yard and maintenance sheds there. The city that sprung up around them was first called Harriman after E. H. Harriman, president of the Southern Pacific. The city was quickly renamed Sparks after John Sparks, the governor of Nevada at that time.[2][3]

Sparks remained a small town until the 1950s, when economic growth in Reno triggered a housing boom north of the railroad in the area of Sparks. During the 1970s, the area south of the railroad started to fill up with warehouses and light industry. In 1984 the tower for John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino Resort was finished, giving Sparks its first, and currently only, high-rise casino.[4] In 1996, the redevelopment effort of the B Street business district across from the Nugget that started in the early 1980s took a step forward with the opening of a multi-screen movie complex and the construction of a plaza area. This area, now known as Victorian Square, is a pedestrian-friendly district that hosts many open-air events.[2]

Under direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a comprehensive dynamic water quality computer model, the DSSAM Model, was developed (Earth Metrics, 1987) to analyze impacts of a variety of land use and stormwater management decisions throughout the 3,120-square-mile (8,100 km2) Truckee River basin; this model was used to develop a set of surface runoff stormwater management measures for Sparks in the 1980s.[5]

Geography and climate

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Sparks has a total area of 35.9 square miles (93.0 km2), of which 35.8 square miles (92.6 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 0.47%, is water.[1] Stormwater surface runoff from the city drains into the Truckee River, a sensitive waterway that empties into Pyramid Lake, which has no outlet and is the habitat of two endangered species.

Sparks has a semi-arid climate. Due to frequent low humidity, especially in the summer, daily temperature ranges are fairly wide. The average January temperatures are a maximum of 48.3 °F (9.1 °C) and a minimum of 23.5 °F (−4.7 °C). Average July temperatures are a maximum of 91.7 °F (33.2 °C) and a minimum of 53.6 °F (12.0 °C). There are an average of 52.3 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) and an average of 141.7 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C). The record high temperature was 108 °F (42 °C) on July 11, 2002, and the record low temperature was −19 °F (−28 °C) on February 4, 2001.

Average annual precipitation in Sparks is 7.82 inches (199 mm). There are an average of 48 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1998 with 15.07 inches (383 mm) and the driest was 1990 with 4.65 inches (118 mm). The most precipitation in one month was 3.81 inches (97 mm) in December 2005, including the most precipitation in 24 hours (1.61 inches (41 mm)) on December 31.

Average snowfall per year is 7.0 inches (180 mm). The most snow in one year was 21.0 inches (530 mm) in 2008 and the most snow in one month was 19.6 inches (500 mm) in February 1990.[6]

Average monthly temperatures and precipitation

Climate data for Sparks, Nevada
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 47
Average low °F (°C) 23
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.12
Source: [7]


As of the census of 2010, there were 90,264 people, 33,502 households, and 22,598 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,761 inhabitants per square mile (1,452/km2). There were 36,455 housing units at an average density of 1,519/sq mi (586/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 74.5% White, 2.6% African American, 1.2% Native American, 5.9% Asian, 0.6% Pacific Islander, 11.2% from other races, and 4.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 26.3% of the population.[10]

There were 33,502 households out of which 36.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.7% were headed by married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.5% were non-families. Of all households 24.3% were made up of individuals and 8.3% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.[10]

In the city the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 25.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. For every 100 females there were 97.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.7 males.[10]

In 2011 the estimated median income for a household in the city was $50,568, and the median income for a family was $57,905. About 10.9% of families and 13.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.2% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.[11]

Arts and culture

Cultural events include the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off.[12]

Tourist attractions include the Great Basin Brewing Company, and John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino Resort.[13]

Parks and recreation

Sparks Marina Park was established on a naturally occurring aquifer in Sparks. Aquatic activities include windsurfing, sailing, swimming, scuba diving, fishing and boating. The surrounding park includes walking paths, a dog park, volleyball courts, playgrounds, picnic areas, showers, and a concession stand.[14]

The Mustang Ranch, described as "Nevada's most infamous brothel", has operated at various locations east of Sparks since 1967.[15]


The Old Glendale School, built in 1864, is listed as a Nevada Historical Marker (No. 169). Glendale preceded Reno, and is now part of Sparks.

Public schools

Sparks is served by the Washoe County School District. Schools located within the city include Edward C. Reed High School and Sparks High School.[16]

Private schools

Excel Christian School is a K to 12 school located in Sparks.


The Union Pacific Railroad and Interstate 80 run east-west through the center of Sparks. The Union Pacific has a significant rail yard south of I-80 near downtown and is a central part of the area's industrial park. State Route 445 (Pyramid Way) and State Route 659 (McCarran Blvd) are the city's major north-south thoroughfares. Pyramid Way runs from downtown to Pyramid Lake and has been designated a Nevada Scenic Byway. Sparks is also served by the nearby Reno–Tahoe International Airport.

Passenger rail service to the Sparks Amtrak Station ended in 2009.

Notable people


  1. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Sparks city, Nevada". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Toll, David W. (October 2002). The Complete Nevada Traveler: The Affectionate and Intimately Detailed Guidebook to the Most Interesting State in America. Reno: University of Nevada Press. pp. 68–69.  
  3. ^ Myrick, David F. (2007). Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California: The southern roads. Reno: University of Nevada Press. p. 868.  
  4. ^ Kling, Dwayne; Melton, Rollan (August 2010). The Rise of the Biggest Little City: An Encyclopedic History of Reno Gaming, 1931-1981. Reno: University of Nevada Press. p. 3.  
  5. ^ C.M.Hogan, Marc Papineau et al. Development of a dynamic water quality simulation model for the Truckee River, Earth Metrics Inc., Environmental Protection Agency Technology Series, Washington D.C. (1987)
  6. ^ "SPARKS, NEVADA - Climate Summary". Retrieved 2013-01-16. 
  7. ^ "Monthly Averages for Sparks, NV (89431)". The Weather Channel. Retrieved October 18, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  9. ^ Moffatt, Riley. Population History of Western U.S. Cities & Towns, 1850–1990. Lanham: Scarecrow, 1996, 158.
  10. ^ a b c "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Sparks city, Nevada". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Selected Economic Characteristics: 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates (DP03): Sparks city, Nevada". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
  12. ^ Sonner, Scott (May 31, 2005). "Sparks sets lineup for annual cook-off".  
  13. ^ Robison, Mark (7 April 2014). "Reno Rebirth: Beer, liquor makers grow in Nevada". Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Helms Lake at Sparks Marina Park". City of Sparks, Nevada. Retrieved March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Nevada's Most Infamous Brothel, Mustang Ranch, Back In Business". FOX News. August 5, 2007. 
  16. ^ "Schools". Washoe County School District. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 

Further reading

  • Earth Metrics Inc, C.M. Hogan, Marc Papineau, et al. Development of a dynamic water quality simulation model for the Truckee River, Environmental Protection Agency Technology Series, Washington D.C. (1987)

External links

  • Official website
  • Chamber of Commerce
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