Richard Moreno has a great story about the history of the Helms Pit. The Helms Pit was a big gravel pit in Sparks, right off of the freeway. We used to go to the Western Village Casino in Sparks to eat at Pancho and Willie’s restaurant, and the parking lot was right at the edge of the Helms Pit so you could peer over the edge all the way to the bottom, 100 feet down. In the early 90s it had become contaminated with toxic groundwater, but even as the cleanup was being carried out the city of Sparks was talking about filling the lake with water and turning it into a recreational lake. The only problem was that filling it would take forever.
Then the New Year’s Flood of 1997 happened and the Truckee River spilled over its banks, flooding large areas of Sparks. The water rushed through a small culvert that passed under the I-80 freeway, undermining it and collapsing a few lanes. But all that water next flowed into the Helms Pit. The pit was filled to the top within a matter of hours.
Anyway, you don’t need me here paraphrasing the story. Just go over to Richard’s site and read it yourself.