For centuries the site of Fallon and the environs were inhabited by prehistoric cave-dwelling peoples who left behind baskets, woven mats, and a variety of petroglyphs, the most visible of which can be seen at Grimes Point off U.S. 50 just east of town. In the nineteenth century the Pony Express and pioneers passed through the area. By the time they arrived in what is now Fallon, emigrants had crossed the Nevada desert and set their sights on climbing over the Sierra Nevada, staying in the Fallon area only long enough to discard possessions in order to lighten the load for the last big push west.
Fallon's isolated location and lack of readily available water prohibited development until the creation of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District in 1902. This was the first of many federal reclamation projects in the West set in motion by Senator Francis G. Newlands of Nevada, who pushed through the passage of the National Reclamation Act of 1902. Newlands made sure that one of the first five irrigation projects under this act would benefit his state. Workers diverted water from the Truckee River to the Carson River to irrigate land provided free to farmers, along with heavily subsidized water rights, for cultivation of alfalfa and cantaloupes, Fallon's major agricultural products. The town quickly became an oasis in the desert.
Fallon is still a fairly quiet agricultural town, but it is changing quickly. In recent years farmers have lost many legal battles over water supplies to the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe and the urban population of Reno. However, another federally funded boost to the local economy has arrived in the form of the Fallon Naval Air Station. Originally a World War II airfield, the base has expanded since the Korean War. The relocation of the Navy's “Top Gun” school to Fallon has brought an influx of money and people. Fallon's center retains a number of older public and private structures, but most of the new development has occurred on the edges of town.
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