Water History Tour Through Nevada State Parks... A Must Do!

When Jenny shared the description of this eight hour tour, we were in!

Follow the remnants of the old Virginia & Gold Hill Water Company flumes and inverted siphon. Originally built in 1873, this system brought much needed water from the Sierra to the Comstock.
Our group was the usual, fun participants: Cyndy, Jenny, Bob and us.
Our day was expertly led by Jay Howard- Park Supervisor for Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.
Bob drove and this was our view for most of the day (until the window gathered too much dust). At times, it was a pretty wild ride, traversing many miles of typically inaccessible dirt roads.
The water system dates back to the 1870s. The first major water supply project was the development of a transmission line, which was constructed in 1873, and delivered water from Hobart Reservoir to Virginia City. This transmission line, although it has received numerous updates and replacements, remains today as the only source of water for Storey County.

This tour was much more than stunning vistas, it was a reminder of great accomplishments and rich history. At the founding of Virginia City in 1859, the local water system drew from the mines, yielding barely palatable water. In 1871, several investors including John Mackay and James Fair purchased the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company from William Sharon. The new owners quickly settled on plans for an ambitious project that would bring water from the Sierra Nevada range, thirty miles to the west. The challenge would be traversing Washoe Valley, 1,200 to 1,500 feet below Virginia City and nearly 2,000 feet below the necessary location for a Sierra reservoir.


We stopped at Red House for lunch and a history lesson. This was a flume tender's home. There were over 45 miles of box flumes and 21 miles of pipes that allowed the water program to work so effectively. There were six tenders that made sure that all was flowing as planned.

Touring this home, originally built in 1875 and rebuilt in 1911 due to a tragic flood, was like stepping back in time. Jay's passion for this history was addictive.



By 1877, the water came from the Tahoe Basin via a 4,000 foot tunnel through the crest of the Sierra. We hiked in to see the now collapsed exit.

Bob, our wildflower expert, pointed out this beautiful Sierra Rein Orchid. It was great to have him along for his knowledge.


We ended our history lessons on the shore of Marlette Lake, the starting source of the water supply for this entire historic water system.

This description really doesn't do this touring day justice. It's just one of those things you have to see for yourself and I highly recommend you do.


"History is for human self-knowledge
... the only clue to what man can do is what man has done.
The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done
and thus what man is."
R. G. Collingwood

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