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Fernley, Nevada
Main Street in Fernley
Main Street in Fernley
Motto: "A Great Place to Live, Work, and Play"
Location of Fernley, Nevada
Location of Fernley, Nevada
Country United States
State Nevada
County Lyon
 • Total 128.8 sq mi (333.7 km2)
 • Land 122.1 sq mi (316.3 km2)
 • Water 6.7 sq mi (17.4 km2)
Elevation 4,160 ft (1,268 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 19,368
 • Density 159/sq mi (61.2/km2)
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 89408
Area code(s) 775
FIPS code 32-24900
GNIS feature ID 0840446

Coordinates: 39°35′55″N 119°12′54″W / 39.59861°N 119.215°W / 39.59861; -119.215 Fernley is a city in Lyon County, Nevada, United States, east of the Reno–Sparks metropolitan area. The city incorporated in 2001; prior to that it was a census-designated place (CDP). The population of the city was 19,368 at the 2010 census. Fernley is home to the Reno-Fernley Raceway, and is the former home of which has relocated to Reno.


Fernley is located at the intersection of Interstate 80, U.S. Route 50 Alternate, and U.S. Route 95 Alternate (US 95A). Although it originally spanned the Lyon/Washoe County line, a county boundary change in 2005 left it entirely in Lyon County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 128.8 square miles (333.7 km2), of which 122.1 square miles (316.3 km2) is land and 6.7 square miles (17.4 km2), or 5.22%, is water.


Fernley's climate is typical of high desert environments. The winter may bring cold temperatures and some snow, but nothing extreme is normally experienced. Summers are generally hot and very dry. Fernley's average annual rainfall is 5 inches (130 mm).


Historical population
Census Pop.
1980 5,164
1990 8,543 65.4%
2000 19,368 126.7%
2010 19,368 0.0%
Est. 2015 19,418 0.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 19,368 people, 7,048 households, and 5,206 families residing in the city. The population density was 158.6 people per square mile (61.2/km²). There were 7,975 housing units at an average density of 65.3 per square mile (25.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.5% White, 1.0% Black or African American, 1.8% Native American, 2.0 Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 5.7% some other race, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.4% of the population.

There were 7,048 households, out of which 38.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.6% were headed by married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.1% were non-families. 19.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.7% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74, and the average family size was 3.13.

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.7% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.3 years. For every 100 females there were 101.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.4 males.

For the period 2007-2011, the estimated median annual income for a household in the city was $52,572, and the median income for a family was $55,188. Male full-time workers had a median income of $51,081 versus $36,720 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,851. About 6.6% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.2% of those under age 18 and 2.8% of those age 65 or over.


School House--Chamber of Commerce
Fernley schoolhouse

Fernley, established in 1904, developed as primarily an agricultural and ranching community in proximity to Reno. Early in its history, Fernley established its first schoolhouse. The one-room schoolhouse is still in use today as the home of the Fernley Chamber of Commerce.

Much of the farmland in the Fernley area was developed through the Newlands Irrigation Project, which was a result of the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902. The project established an irrigation system that delivers water to an area stretching from Derby Dam, along the Truckee River, to the Lahontan Reservoir near Fallon, Nevada. Construction and expansion of the system took place from the inception through the 1960s. Many of the concrete irrigation headgates, still in use today, are embossed with the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) stamp and date of construction. In addition to the irrigation system in the Fernley area, a drainage system was also constructed to carry away excess water and mineral salts from the farmlands. This system consists of channels (5 to 15 feet (1.5 to 4.6 m) deep) dug adjacent to fields; it eventually terminates in the sink northeast of Fernley. The irrigation system is administered and maintained through the Truckee–Carson Irrigation District.

Until 1904, there was no place named "Fernley" in the area. It was not until the Southern Pacific Railroad realigned its route through northwestern Nevada that the Fernley siding was created. Fernley first shows up as a station stop, but with no other services, on Southern Pacific employee timetables beginning with the September 18, 1904, edition (SP Salt Lake Division ETT No. 2). By September 3, 1905, Fernley is listed with a day and night telegraph office and wye facilities. The descendants of the telegrapher James A. Galbraith, who arrived with his family in 1906, still reside in the region.

In the meantime, a community emerged and took the name Fernley. The general area was part of the fledgling Truckee-Carson Reclamation Project created by Congress in 1902 and later named the Canal District because of the newly created Truckee Canal connecting the Truckee River to the Lahontan Reservoir. Workers and settlers found their way to the western edge of the first federal reclamation project. On June 9, 1904, the Lyon County Commissioners created the Canal Township and appointed a constable, Robert A. Benson, and a justice of the peace, Edgar I. Parker, both men filing for homesteads in late 1903, according to records housed at the National Archives. In 1907 more settlers arrived and established homesteads.

On April 21, 1908, the Fernley post office opened. A public school also began operating in the 1908-1909 school year. According to the 1910 U.S. Census, 159 people lived in the Fernley area. Many of the town's residents were active in the Socialist Party; some were appointed postmaster, and others elected to the school board, the office of the Justice of the Peace, and the State Assembly.

The Southern Pacific Railroad completed the Fernley and Lassen Railway in 1914, and a suitable depot was constructed in Fernley. Residents welcomed the completion of the transcontinental Lincoln/Victory Highways through town in the 1920s.

The town grew slowly at first. In 1960, only 654 people were enumerated in the U.S. Census. However, the population had more than doubled by 1970 with the construction of Interstate 80 and the Nevada Cement Company opening its operation in 1963. By 1980, the population had more than doubled again. By 1990, the population had reached 5,164, and in 2000 the census counted 8,543 residents. The population more than doubled yet again over the next decade, reaching 19,368 by the 2010 census.

Name origin

The origin of Fernley's name remains obscure and shrouded in mystery. The answer probably is somewhere in the voluminous records of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Over the years, there has been much conjecture on for whom or for what Fernley was named.

A letter to the editor published in the Sept./Oct. 1990 issue of Nevada Magazine claimed that a physician of Welsh origin by the name of Fernley opened a coal mine in the area and supplied coal to the railroad. "The coal mining operation gave its name to the town of 'Fernley'," wrote Al Riggle on behalf of the 95-year-old Mrs. Nettie Fernley of Tombstone, Arizona. "In the early '30s a nephew of the doctor, Tom Fernley, moved there and set up a casino in Fernley."

Nothing can be found that verifies Mrs. Nettie Fernley's claim. No coal mines were known to operate near Fernley; there is no record of a Dr. Fernley living or practicing anywhere in Nevada; and a Tom Fernley cannot be found operating a casino in Fernley in the 1930s.

On the other hand, the Fernley family name has its origin in Wales and England. The ancient English town of Hereford, near Wales, was once known as Fernley. St. Ethelbert (Æthelberht of Kent), King of the East Angles, following his murder was finally buried at the church in the Heath of Fern circa 794. Today, there are no other communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom by the name of Fernley, according to on-line place names databases. Fernley, Nevada County, California, no longer exists.

The source for Fernley, Nevada's, name may never be discovered. It is highly probable that the naming of the siding was random and concocted like nearby sidings labeled Bango, Benin, Ditho, Dodon, and Parran.

Recent history

In 1965, the Nevada Cement Company started operation in a new plant built on the north side of the city between Fernley and Wadsworth. This was the first significant non-agricultural/ranching business to come to Fernley, aside from the railroad. Primary employment in Fernley began a steady transition to an industrial and commuter base continuing to the present time. Beginning in the 1970s, parts of the formerly agricultural and ranching-based lands were transitioning to housing subdivisions to support the growing population, much of which was spilling over from rapid growth in the Reno-Sparks area. Close proximity to Interstate 80 and abundant land for housing made Fernley an attractive alternative to the increasingly congested and expensive Truckee Meadows housing market. Beginning near the established parts of the town, growth moved to the Fremont Street area in the mid to late 1970s, nearer farming areas in the 1980s, and has continued along the Farm District Road areas to the present. Numerous subdivisions now exist along the Farm District Road, including an 18-hole golf course and a new elementary school.

In 1999, opened a 750,000-square-foot (70,000 m2) order fulfillment center in the industrial park located in the northeast side of the city, following major initiatives and investments by investors from Seattle. Stanley Works had previously used the facility; redesigned the interior systems and greatly expanded the capacity in the years since. The investment has provided thousands of new jobs for the city and invigorated the economy in the metropolitan area. Since that time, more companies have opened facilities in the park, including Trex Inc., Allied Signal, UPS Worldwide Logistics (Honeywell), ARE Campers, Johns Manville, and Sherwin Williams Paint.

On July 1, 2001, the city of Fernley was incorporated.

Fernley is home to Fernley High School, It is also known as FHS, Fernley High or just Fernley, and considered one of the best schools in Lyon County & Nevada in terms of AP, honors and engineering programs. Vaqueros is the school mascot. Fernley High School is part of the Lyon County School District system. The majority of the students come from Fernley Intermediate School and State of Nevada schools. The principal, as of the 2016–2017 school year, is Kent Jones. The school color is orange.

Fernley High School has extensive athletic programs, program centers and student clubs. It has broad array of educational facilities including Fernley Adult Education Center. The school has drawn hundreds of international students since 1990s.

Fernley High School has built considerable number of sport facilities, including football stadium, baseball field, track and field, basketball indoor arena, gymnasium, fitness center, etc. It has extensive student meal program, dining hall and catering facilities.

Fernley High School is currently located off US 95A on the south side of town. Prior to 1980, the high school was located at the current Fernley Intermediate School on Hardie Lane.

Founded in late 1950s, Fernley High School's original old buildings were demolished in the early 1960s and were located on the block now occupied by the In-Town Park near the old downtown area between US 95A and Center Street. Since 1990, Fernley is the site of one of the two Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemeteries, The Northern Nevada Veteran Cemetery and the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery located in Boulder City

On January 5, 2008, a levee along the Truckee Canal broke, forcing the rescue and evacuation of 3,500 people from the town as 3 to 6 feet (0.91 to 1.83 m) of water filled houses.

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