Settlement began in the early 1850s, and the population density remained very low until 1904 when the Southern Pacific Railroad built a switch yard and maintenance sheds there, after moving the division point from Wadsworth. Sparks had the largest railway roundhouse in the world at the time of its inception in the early 1900s.

In 1902, The Southern Pacific purchased a large tract of land near its newly built railyard, and gave everyone clear deed to a 50' x 140' lot for the grand sum of $1. They also offered to pick up and move — free of charge — every house in Wadsworth and reassemble it in this new town. As the population increased, a city was established, first called Harriman, after E.H. Harriman, president of the Southern Pacific, and then shortly thereafter renamed Sparks, after John Sparks, then governor of Nevada.

News of the location change dealt a stern blow to the future and prosperity of Wadsworth. Long-time residents were reluctant to abandon their homes, but their livelihood was dependent on the railroad.
In early July 1904, practically the entire town of Wadsworth picked up and moved to its new location. Personal belongings—including everything from pets and livestock to trees and shrubs—were packed onto railway cars for the move.

Entire homes were cut into sections and loaded on Southern Pacific flat cars for transportation, free of charge by the company.

In a matter of weeks, Wadsworth essentially became a ghost town. According to the Nevada State Archives, the population of Wadsworth in 1900 was 1,309, and in 1910, it had dropped to a meager 250. As quickly as Wadsworth had been abandoned, however, the new city— Sparks —began to grow.
In the 1950s, Sparks began to change. Subdivisions began springing up in the grazing lands northeast of the city. With the railroad now playing a diminished role, Sparks began to transform into a residential community.

In the 1970s, warehousing and manufacturing plants were constructed on the south end of the city, giving Sparks a network of new roads.

The city continued to develop and expand through the ‘80s, seeing its first high-rise hotel and casino completed in 1984.

Soon after it was constructed, John Ascuaga’s Nugget became a bastion of gaming and hospitality in Sparks.
Then, in 1997, Mother Nature delivered a surprising new recreation area to the city. Helms Pit—a gravel pit more than 100 feet deep in east Sparks that had been used to supply the city with millions of tons of rock for road and construction projects—was at the mercy of torrential rain. The rain brought some of the highest recorded flooding in the area’s history, which filled up the gravel pit and subsequently created the Sparks Marina.

The unexpected marina has given rise to recreation in the area, including fishing, kayaking, and sailing.

Now established as a charming residential community, Sparks continues to expand and transform. Though tracks certainly still wind across its surface, the city is now far detached from the days when it relied on the railroad to support its existence.
Sparks is a city in Washoe County, Nevada, founded in 1904, incorporated on March 15, 1905, and is located just east of Reno.
The 2020 U.S. Census counted 108,445 residents in the city. It is named after John Sparks, Nevada Governor (1903–1908), and a member of the Silver Party.

The most recent boom was created by the arrival of Tesla and over 100 other companies at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center East of Sparks.