Filed Under Environment

Manzanita Lake and Manzanita Bowl

The manmade lake and adjacent grassy expanse have been sites of campus beauty and recreation for generations.

Manzanita Lake is one of the most iconic landmarks on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. For almost a century, the lake has been the site of public recreation, campus tradition, and a diverse collection of wildlife. Manzanita Bowl is the name given to the grassy expanse of trees and lawn stretching south from the lake to East Ninth Street.

Officially dedicated on November 25, 1911, Manzanita Lake is a man-made lake created by damming the Orr irrigation ditch, an agricultural waterway that pre-dated the University. The remnants of the Orr ditch can still be seen at the southern tip of campus. Before the creation of the lake, the area featured a small body of water known as Evans Pond, built in 1878 on the Evans ranch, an area which included all of northwest Reno before the University began to purchase the land in 1884.

The filling of the ditch and surrounding ravine were made possible due to the financial assistance of Clarence Mackay, son of Comstock silver baron John Mackay. The walkway separating the bowl from the lake was originally a carved wooden structure which was converted to a concrete walkway in 1937. The conversion of a small pond into a permanent lake increased significantly the presence of water on the campus, while reducing the amount of land available for building construction. This speaks to the strength of the University's commitment to the aesthetic appearance of the campus.

At Manzanita Lake's opening ceremony, Regents J. W. O'Brien and A. A. Codd expressed their wish that the lake be used for sporting activities, such as boating, ice skating, and especially swimming. While those activities are no longer allowed on Manzanita Lake, students have taken every opportunity to enjoy its waters and the surrounding area. As soon as Manzanita Lake was officially opened to the public, it became a coveted destination for outdoor recreation. Every year, when the lake froze, students and community members would put on their skates and head onto the ice.

Since its creation, Manzanita Lake has been home to a variety of birds, including ducks, geese and swans. The regal swans at Manzanita Lake have always been popular attractions, serving as iconic figureheads for the lake. At least two swans are always in residence there.

The adjacent Manzanita Bowl has been the site of generations of activities including Mackay Day competitions, musical performances, outdoor volleyball matches, and Duck Day.

Video

Mackay Day at Manzanita Bowl, 1937 Historical footage of Manzanita Bowl filmed in 1937 by Ned Westover. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Amanda Buell Date: 1937
Mackay Day at Manzanita Lake, 1937 Historical footage of Manzanita Lake filmed in 1937 by Ned Westover. Creator: Amanda Buell Date: 1937

Images

Tug of war
Tug of war Mackay Days tug-of-war across Manzanita Lake, 1929. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Irving J Sandorf Date: 1929
Coffin and Keys rafting
Coffin and Keys rafting Coffin and Keys raft event on Manzanita Lake, with a dog in the foreground, 1922. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1922
Relaxing at Manzanita Bowl
Relaxing at Manzanita Bowl Students sit in the Manzanita Bowl, with the tram behind them, ca. 1935. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1935
Movie set
Movie set From the 1949 movie "Mother is a Freshman" - Van Johnson and Loretta Young standing at the edge of Manzanita Lake. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Reno News Service Date: ca. 1949
Ice skating on Manzanita Lake
Ice skating on Manzanita Lake Air Force trainees skate on Manzanita Lake, 1944. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1944
Concert
Concert A concert in the Manzanita Bowl with the Clark Administration Building in the background, 1975. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1975
Picnic
Picnic A piano player with an audience in the background at the All School Picnic in Manzanita Bowl, 1979. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1979
Concrete canoe
Concrete canoe Students Larry Hines, Roy Thompson, Bob Scrats, and Fred Drouse test their concrete boat on Manzanita Lake, 1980. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Bret Willden Date: 1980
Mackay week contest
Mackay week contest Log rolling contest in Manzanita Lake during Mackay Week, 1980. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1980
All-school picnic
All-school picnic Students dance during the all-school picnic in the Manzanita Bowl in 1979. Source: University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1979

Location

Metadata

Douglas Boedenauer, “Manzanita Lake and Manzanita Bowl,” Reno Historical, accessed April 12, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/77.