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Sparks, Nevada, is the second largest city in Washoe County. It is located in the Truckee Meadows next to Reno. The two cities share a common border, with no unincorporated county land separating them. It can be difficult to tell for sure which town you are in when traversing the area on some of the main roads. For example, McCarran Boulevard passes through both Reno and Sparks on its circuit around the area and drivers can easily miss city limits signs while jockeying in busy traffic.

Living in Sparks, Nevada

Even though the cities share a common border, life in Sparks tends to be quieter and less hectic than in Reno. For one thing, the population is less than half that of Reno. There are few casinos and fewer main streets lined with businesses, though there are certainly plenty to service local residents and travelers. Most of the town is residential neighborhoods, ranging from the older parts of town close to the I80 corridor to newer areas that have sprung up on the fringes as Sparks has grown. These are some of the factors that have made Sparks a popular place to live and raise a family.

"It's Happening Here!" is the Sparks City Slogan

Sparks adopted the slogan "It's Happening Here!" as a tool to promote the city. Like Reno, a big part of the Sparks economy revolves around tourism and the slogan helps get out the word that there are a variety of annual events and other fun and interesting things to do for both locals and visitors. Some of the more prominent of these are listed here.

Get even more information from the City of Sparks website or install the Sparks Mobil App for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

Sparks, Nevada by the Numbers

Here are some of the numbers and statistics associated with the City of Sparks, Nevada...
  • Nickname: The Rail City
  • Date incorporated: March 15, 1905
  • Population: 92,183 (2012)
  • Area: 35.91 square miles (93 square kilometers)
  • Elevation: 4410 feet above sea level
  • Unemployment rate: 9.7% (July, 2013)
  • GPS coordinates: 39:32:39N 119:44:13W
  • Average annual precipitation: 7.82 inches (199 mm)

Rivalry Between Sparks and Reno

Actually, there doesn't seem to be much rivalry between the neighboring cities of Reno and Sparks. Part of this is because Sparks residents and government are really attached to their city and like to maintain a distinct identity. The towns also have different life histories, each having been born and grown up in unique ways. Joking references do occasionally fly back and forth, however. When at functions together, the respective mayors have been known to refer to their next door neighbor as "east Reno" and "west Sparks." One local saying has it that "Reno is so close to hell you can see Sparks."

A Brief History of Sparks, Nevada

Before 1905, the area now occupied by Sparks was undeveloped raw land northeast of Reno. Then along came the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) and a decision to re-route the line across Nevada. The new route would bypass Wadsworth, where the shops and roundhouse had been for years. The SP decided on the piece of land that is now Sparks and moved the existing facilities. Employees were given lots in the new town and even their houses were packed up and moved at the railroad's expense. Sparks was incorporated on March 15, 1905, and grew around the SP operations, which were the biggest thing in town. Eventually, the need for such extensive railroad facilities diminished, but by then the city had developed other economic activities. To this day, however, there is a big railroad yard in Sparks serving the busy line that still closely follows the original transcontinental railroad completed in 1869. All of this railroad activity gave rise to Sparks' nickname - The Rail City. The city was named after John Sparks, who was Nevada's governor at the time.

For a fun and informative look at the history of Sparks, visit the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center on Victorian Square. An outdoor display across Victorian Avenue from the Museum includes the #8 South Pacific steam locomotive built in 1907, a cupola caboose and refurbished Pullman executive car, and a depot replica.

Source: City of Sparks government website, Sparks Museum and Cultural Center.
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