Sparks is located in Washoe County just north of Reno, between Fernley and the California state line. It lies along Interstate 80 on the banks of the Truckee River near Pyramid Lake and Lake Washoe.
In 1904, the town was settled by residents of Wadsworth, who moved after their town was replaced by Sparks as the big switching yard on this stretch of the Southern Pacific Railroad. They named the community after Governor John Sparks, who served from 1905 to 1908 and owned a ranch nearby. The railroad was the city's main employer until the engines were changed to diesel power in 1957, compelling closure of the railroad shops.
Today Sparks, population 66,346 and growing, still is a hub of railroad activities, but also has light industry and is a tourist destination. In Sparks is a monument dedicated to Chinese railroad construction workers, as well as a railroad museum. Victorian Avenue offers year-round public events.
Sparks is part of the Reno, Nevada metro area.