Filed Under Tourism

Chism's Auto Camp

An appealing stop for travelers to and through Reno since 1927

Located on an alternate route of the Lincoln Highway on the west side of Reno, the auto camp was a successful business for the Chism family beginning in 1927.

Harry Chism started the Chism's Auto Camp during the summer of 1927 on property his father had acquired in 1880. The property was on the north side of the Truckee River, directly across from Idlewild Park, where the Transcontinental Highway Exposition was being held that summer. Not only was the campground close to the park, it was on West Second Street, an alternate route of the Lincoln Highway that went along the river west of town. It was an ideal location for visitors to stay during the Exposition and a lucrative enterprise for the Chisms.

The original campground included individual campsites, a large tent that housed a kitchen, and another tent that was used as a boathouse. There was also an office with a living area, a gas station, and a small store. The operation was so successful that when Harry died in 1929, his son John took over the park. By then, the park not only catered to auto travelers, but also to divorce-seekers needing a place to live out the residency requirement for getting a so-called "quickie" Reno divorce, so John made a number of improvements including the development of sites for travel trailers, which were gaining in popularity. He later added eight motel units and 16 cold water cabins with an adjoining bathhouse.

By 1958, John Chism added even more trailer spaces. With the business focusing on the mobile home market, the motel units were no longer needed. Four were converted to studio apartments and the others were moved to the Indian Reservation at Schurz. In 1960, John purchased the old Chism home, across from the park. On an acre of land next to the house, he added 15 more mobile home spaces, and in order to retain the overnight trade, he removed the cold water cabins and added six RV spaces.

John Chism retired in 1979, passing along the business to his children, who continued to own it for more than three decades. In 2014, Chism’s Trailer Park consisted of 124 permanent spaces, 28 RV spaces, two houses and four apartments. Chism’s Trailer Park played a key role in the development of automobile tourism in Reno by catering to motor travelers in automobiles and trailers. It may have been the first trailer park in Reno to accommodate the more permanent mobile homes.

The property now operates as River West Resort. offering lots for short- and long-term stays as well as rental cottages.

Images

Chism's Auto Camp
Chism's Auto Camp The entrance to Chism's Auto Camp on West Second Street. Source: Gordon Chism
Chism's, 2002
Chism's, 2002 Chism's Trailer Park in 2002, much the same for decades. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2002
Chism's 1997
Chism's 1997 Chism's Trailer Park in 1997. "Overnight Parking." Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Mella Rothwell Harmon Date: 1997
River West Resort
River West Resort The site of Chism's Auto Camp now operates as the River West Resort, which offers sites for mobile and tiny homes as well as rental cottages. Source: River West Resort Date: 2020
River West Resort in winter
River West Resort in winter A winter's day on West Second Street, a peaceful setting just west of downtown Reno. Source: River West Resort Date: 2021

Location

1300 West 2nd Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Chism's Auto Camp,” Reno Historical, accessed May 24, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/20.