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Victorian Square, Sparks, Nevada.jpg
Official logo of Sparks
The Rail City, City Of Promise
"It's Happening Here!"
Location in Washoe County
Location in Washoe County
Country  United States
State  Nevada
County Washoe
Founded 1904; 119 years ago (1904)
Incorporated March 15, 1905; 118 years ago (1905-03-15)
Named for John Sparks
 • Type Council–manager
 • Total 35.94 sq mi (93.07 km2)
 • Land 35.83 sq mi (92.79 km2)
 • Water 0.11 sq mi (0.29 km2)
4,413 ft (1,345 m)
 • Total 108,445
 • Density 3,026.65/sq mi (1,168.71/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
89431, 89434, 89437
Area code(s) 775
FIPS code 32-68400
GNIS feature ID 0856391
Interstates I-80 (NV).svg Business Loop 80.svg
Major State Routes Nevada 445.svg Nevada 647.svg Nevada 659.svg
Waterways Truckee River
Public transit Regional Transportation Commission
Reference #: 88

Sparks is a city in Washoe County, Nevada, United States. It was founded in 1904, incorporated on March 15, 1905, and is located just east of Reno. The 2020 U.S. Census counted 108,445 residents in the city. It is the fifth most populous city in Nevada. It is named after John Sparks, Nevada Governor (1903–1908), and a member of the Silver Party.

Sparks is located within the Reno–Sparks metropolitan area.


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.

2015-11-03 06 40 05 View east towards Interstate 80 and the city of Sparks, Nevada from an airplane taking off from Reno–Tahoe International Airport
View of Sparks from an airplane departing from nearby Reno–Tahoe International Airport

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 the Nugget Casino Resort was finished, giving Sparks its first, and currently only, high-rise casino. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.12


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 2,500
1920 3,238 29.5%
1930 4,508 39.2%
1940 5,318 18.0%
1950 11,378 114.0%
1960 19,827 74.3%
1970 24,187 22.0%
1980 40,780 68.6%
1990 53,667 31.6%
2000 74,526 38.9%
2010 94,728 27.1%
2020 108,445 14.5%

As of the American Community Survey of 2018, there were 104,246 people, 38,056 households residing in the city. The population density was 2,524.3 inhabitants per square mile (974.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 76.8% White, 2.5% African American, 1.5% Native American, 5.7% Asian, 0.5% Pacific Islander, and 5.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 29.3% of the population.

In 2018, the population of the city was spread out, with 23.5% under the age of 18 and 15.3% who were 65 years of age or older. There were 50.3% females.

In 2018 the estimated median income for a household in the city was $60,785 and 9.9% of the population were below the poverty line.

Arts and culture

John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino Resort
Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks

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

Tourist attractions include the Great Basin Brewing Company, and Nugget Casino Resort.

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.




2015-10-27 15 36 28 View west along Interstate 80 in Sparks, Nevada from an airplane landing at Reno-Tahoe International Airport
I-80 runs through central Sparks.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) operates a city bus system that services the cities of Reno and Sparks.

Sparks is served by the nearby Reno–Tahoe International Airport.


The Union Pacific Railroad runs east–west through the center of Sparks. The Union Pacific has a significant rail yard south of I-80, just south and adjacent to the Nugget Hotel/Casino towers in downtown Sparks, and is a central part of the area's industrial park. Passenger rail service to the Sparks Amtrak Station ended in 2009, although service continues in neighboring Reno by the California Zephyr.


Interstate 80 runs east–west through Sparks. State Route 445 (Pyramid Way), El Rancho Drive, Sullivan Lane, Rock Boulevard, Sparks Boulevard, Vista Boulevard, and State Route 659 (McCarran Blvd) are the city's major north–south thoroughfares. Pyramid Way runs from Nugget Avenue in downtown Sparks to Pyramid Lake, about 35 miles north of the city, and has been designated a Nevada Scenic Byway.

Sparks is connected directly to south Reno by the Southeast Connector. It is a northerly extension of Veterans Parkway to the Sparks Boulevard at Greg Street. It serves as an expressway, with only 2 signaled intersections along its 5.5 mile stretch (one at Pembroke Drive and one at Mira Loma Drive), and constitutes a major arterial connection between Reno and Sparks. It provides an alternative route to existing, overcrowded routes such as the US-395/I-580 freeway, Rock Boulevard, and McCarran Boulevard. Construction began in late 2013, and was completed in July 2018.

Sparks also is gearing up for the record of decision on a major, $1.1 billion (estimated) arterial road project, one that will turn a large portion of Pyramid Highway through nearby Spanish Springs into a controlled access, high speed arterial road that connects directly with the US 395 freeway via a complex interchange at the current Parr Boulevard connection. This will directly connect Spanish Springs, a major population center (parts of which are annexed with the city of Sparks), located in the valley just north of Sparks, with the existing Reno/Sparks freeway system which consists currently of Interstate 80 and US 395. This project will also offer more direct freeway system and inter-valley connections to and from Sun Valley, another major population center of the Reno/Sparks metropolitan statistical area. Sun Valley is located just north of Reno and just west of Spanish Springs, and is home to just over 20,000 residents as of 2020.


Old Glendale School, Sparks, Nevada
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 education in Sparks is administered by the Washoe County School District. Schools located within the city district territory include:

High Schools

  • Edward C. Reed High School
  • Sparks High School
  • Spanish Springs High School

Middle Schools

  • Sky Ranch Middle School
  • Sparks Middle School
  • Mendive Middle School
  • Dilworth Middle School
  • Desert Skies Middle School
  • Yvonne Shaw Middle School

Elementary Schools

  • Robert Mitchell Elementary School
  • Alice Maxwell Elementary School
  • Florence Drake Elementary School
  • Greenbrae Elementary School
  • Lena Juniper Elementary School
  • Bud Beasley Elementary School
  • Van Gorder Elementary School
  • Alyce Taylor Elementary School
  • Jesse Hall Elementary School
  • Spanish Springs Elementary School
  • Excel Christian School – a private institution.
  • Katherine Dunn Elementary School
  • Miguel Sepulveda Elementary School
  • Lloyd Diedrichsen Elementary School

Notable people

  • Mädchen Amick (b. 1970), actress on Twin Peaks and Witches of East End, born in Sparks
  • T.J. Bell (b. 1980), motorsport driver, grew up in Sparks
  • Scott Cousins (b. 1985), professional baseball player
  • Brian Crane, syndicated cartoonist of Pickles
  • Jacob Dalton (b. 1991), Olympic gymnast
  • Jim Gibbons (b. 1944), former governor of Nevada
  • Angelina Keeley (b. 1989), charity organizer, political activist, and runner-up of Survivor: David vs. Goliath
  • David S. Loeb (1924–2003), businessman, co-founder of Countrywide and IndyMac
  • Jena Malone (b. 1984), actress, The Hunger Games, Pride & Prejudice
  • Jake McGee (b. 1986), professional baseball player
  • Brian Retterer (b. 1972), NCAA champion swimmer
  • Karl Rove (b. 1950), political activist, lobbyist, pundit, and Deputy White House Chief of Staff
  • Dan Serafini (b. 1974), professional baseball player with Naranjeros de Hermosillo
  • Vernon White (b. 1971), mixed martial artist
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