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Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge

Fish and Wildlife Reserve or Sanctuary
The American White pelican colony protected on Anaho Island is one of the two largest in the western United States. – USFWS

ADA Accessibility Notes

No visitors allowed on Anaho Island, only boat access within 500 feet of the island. Boating, dock access and day use under the jurisdiction of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

Anaho Island Refuge is a rocky island that rises from the waters of Pyramid Lake in Washoe County, Nevada. The refuge was established for the benefit and protection of colonial nesting species and other migratory birds.

The refuge supports breeding colonies of American white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, California gulls, Caspian terns, great blue herons, black-crowned night-herons, and snowy egrets. Established as a refuge for colonial nesting birds in 1913 by President Woodrow Wilson, the sanctuary houses the second largest pelican colony in the western United States. The large numbers and broad variety makes it a bird watcher's or wildlife enthusiast's heaven.

While 8,000 to10,000 pelicans once called Anaho Island home, climate and environmental changes have caused the pelicans' primary food source, the cui-ui, to decline causing some birds to seek out other nesting grounds. In order to protect the fragile ecosystem and to ensure the safety of the remaining bird population, Anaho Island Refuge is closed to the public, and boating is also prohibited within 500 feet of the island. The refuge is visible from any point along Pyramid Lake. From Reno/Sparks, Nevada, follow the Pyramid Lake Highway (State Route 445) north approximately 30 miles. You can view Anaho Island from the highway viewpoint. Pelicans enjoy fishing over the open water in the evenings, and floating on the lake's swift currents.

The 247-acre island was set aside by President Woodrow Wilson as a preserve and breeding ground for colony-nesting birds. In 1940, Anaho Island was redesignated as a national wildlife refuge. Public Law 101-618, passed in 1990, recognized Anaho Island as part of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation to be administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is managed as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System under an agreement with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

Pyramid Lake is also home to the ancient Cui-ui fish and the world-famous Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. The Cui-ui (Chasmistes cujus) is a lake sucker only found in Pyramid Lake. It is a long-lived fish exceeding 40+ years in age and can weigh over 7.5 pounds.

Pet Friendly Notes

Dogs are allowed on boats and the lake shore only.

Recreational Opportunities

Bird watching from the Pyramid Lake Highway viewpoint.


Seasons Accessible

Year round the Pelicans come to Anaho Island in the spring and late summer.


Day Use Permit Required: $6

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