The Carson Valley is a large valley in Western Nevada. It sits between the Carson Range, which is popularly considered part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to the west, and the Pinenut Mountains to the east. The Carson River runs through the valley from south to north, entering the valley in two separate forks which join together near Genoa. The river leaves the valley to the northeast, heading on to the Eagle Valley and Dayton Valley.
The Carson Valley is mostly rural agricultural land, with large ranches scattered through most of the south and west of the valley. There are also a few towns and suburban centers, where most of the residents live.
- Gardnerville Ranchos
- Johnson Lane
- Indian Hills
- Jack's Valley
- Fish Springs
While today the term "Carson Valley" refers only to the large valley along the Carson River in Douglas County, in the 19th century the term referred to the Carson River valleys and canyons extending all the way from today's Carson Valley through Churchill Canyon ENE of Dayton. (According to Thompson and West's 1881 History of Nevada, p. 492, the area around Dayton was considered the "Carson Valley bottom" and extended all the way to Fort Churchill.)
Today's Carson Valley was one of the first places settled in Nevada. California-bound wagon trains in the 1840s and 1850s had two major routes to choose from: either follow the Truckee River and cross the mountains by Donner Lake, or follow the Carson River Route through the Carson Valley, and follow what is now called Hwy 88 over the Carson Pass. In July 1850, H.S. Beatie and his party stopped along the Carson River Route, near the river, and built a small trading post to sell animals and supplies to travelers on the road. They didn't want to spend the winter here, though, so by September they had packed up and gone back to Salt Lake City.
The next year, in the summer of 1851, John Reese (who was Beatie's boss) led a party back to the Carson Valley with the intention of establishing a permanent trading post along the Carson River Route. After scouting several locations along the trail, they decided that the spot where Beatie had built his cabin was the best location, so they settled there and built a more substantial fort, intent on staying the winter. Since most of the party was made up of Mormons, the fort and the settlement were named Mormon Station. It was the first permanent town in Nevada.
In 1855, Mormon Station was renamed Genoa by Orson Hyde, an elder in the Church. By that time several other settlers had also stopped in the Carson Valley to make homes for themselves. Some of them lived in town, others had discovered the fertile ground near the Carson River, and had set about irrigating the land and building large farms. Many of these settlers were Mormons, but a lot of other faiths and nationalities had taken up residence in the valley, including a large contingency of German immigrants who established ranches stretching over hundred of acres.