Truckee River Basin Group

63 Truckee River – East

approximately 10 miles east of Reno, Nevada, along Interstate Highway 80 in the lower Truckee Canyon overlooking the lower Truckee River.

The Truckee River, seen below, runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. The river’s first recorded discovery was by Captain John C. Frémont in January 1844. He camped by its terminus at Pyramid, and then followed it to the big bend at Wadsworth. Captain Frémont named the stream the Salmon-Trout River. At the end of his 1845 sojourn in Nevada, he followed it into the Sierra and crossed Donner Pass.

Beginning with the Stephens-Murphy-Townsend party in 1844, the Truckee River became a route for California emigrants until the advent of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1868-1869 brought the wagon train period to a close. After the Southern Pacific took over the railway in 1899 and relocated much of its Nevada alignment, the old Central Pacific roadbed between Sparks and Wadsworth was deeded to Washoe County in 1904 for road purposes. In 1917, the road became a portion of state road 1, which in 1920 became the Nevada section of the Victory Highway. In 1925, when federal highway names were replaced by a numerical system, the Victory Highway became U.S. highway 40. In 1958, after reconstruction, this route became the initial section of interstate 80 across Nevada.

The river provides water for Reno, Sparks, the Fallon agricultural area and Pyramid Lake.

62 Truckee River – West

approximately 10 miles west of Reno, Nevada, along Interstate Highway 80 overlooking the Truckee River

Native Americans settled for thousands of years in the Truckee Valley. Their camps were on these flats near the river. They used fish blinds near here and left petroglyphs on boulders in the area.

The Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, and was first discovered by Captain John C. Frémont in January 1844.

The Stephens-Murphy-Townsend party in 1844 also followed the Truckee River into the Sierra, and crossed the mountains via Donner Pass. Two years later, the ill-fated Donner party rested in the Truckee Meadows, at present Reno, but they tarried too long and were caught by the Sierra snows. Despite the Donner tragedy, many emigrant trains to California, particularly from 1849 until 1852, traversed the Truckee route.

In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad followed the Truckee’s course. From the 1920s to the 1950s, the surrounding meadows echoed to the heavy exhausts of the giant Southern Pacific, cab-ahead, articulated, steam locomotives. During the same period, the Emigrant Trail, and the early toll roads, were developed into the Lincoln and Victory highways, and then into U.S. 40 and I-80, today’s freeway.

43 Derby Diversion Dam

approximately 20 miles downstream (east) from Sparks, Nevada, and 11 miles upstream (west) from Wadsworth, Nevada (“Big Bend”)

Derby Dam, constructed under Specification Number 1 and Drawing Number 1 of the U.S. Reclamation Service, now the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, diverts the flow of the Truckee River for irrigation use. It was the forerunner of such mighty structures as Hoover, Grand Coulee, Shasta, and Glen Canyon Dams.

Derby Dam was authorized by Secretary of the Interior E.A. Hitchcock on March 14, 1903. It was part of the Newlands Project, named in honor of Nevada Senator Francis G. Newlands who worked for passage of the Reclamation Act in 1902. Derby takes its name from a nearby Southern Pacific Railroad station of the day.

Charles A. Warren & Co. of San Francisco, the contractor, started work on the dam on October 2, 1903, and finished May 20, 1905. Operational water diversions began in 1906.

30 Reno

at the intersection of South Virginia and Pine Streets in Reno

Before the arrival of the European Americans, the Washoe and Paiute people inhabited the Truckee Meadows. The Stevens-Murphy emigrant party passed through the area in 1844, and settlement began in the early 1850s. Charles William Fuller established a river ferry across the Truckee in the fall of 1859 and completed a bridge and a hotel by the spring of 1860. Myron C. Lake acquired Fuller’s holdings in 1861, rebuilt the bridge and established Lake’s Crossing. In 1868, Lake offered land for a depot to the Central Pacific Railroad and the town was laid out. The community’s name honors a Civil War officer, General Jesse Lee Reno.

Reno’s transcontinental railroad connection and its rail link to the Comstock Lode helped lay the foundation for the economy, as did the lumber industry and the surrounding ranches and farms.

The community’s reputation as a divorce center began in 1906 and gambling was legalized in 1931.

29 Chinese In Nevada

at “B” Street and Pyramid Way in Sparks

This honors the heroism and hardihood of the thousands of Chinese Americans who played a major role in the history of Nevada. From across the Pacific, the Chinese came to California during the Gold Rush of ′49 and on to the mountains and deserts of this state where they built railroads, cut timber, and performed countless tasks.

Sizable Chinese communities grew up in Virginia City and other towns. Their contribution to the progress of the state in its first century will be forever remembered by all Nevadans.

18 Pyramid Lake (KOOYOOE PANUNADU)

on State Route 445, the Pyramid Lake Highway from Sparks, Nevada, overlooking the lake on its western side.

America’s most beautiful desert lake is a remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan, which covered some 8,450 square miles in western Nevada during the Ice Age. Caves and rock shelters along its shore have yielded evidence of Numu (Paiute) people living here for thousands of years.

John C. Frémont came upon the lake on January 10, 1844 and named it for the pyramid-shaped island just off the east shore. The Numu call the Pyramid formulation Wono. The Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation was created in 1859. The history of the Numu people living here has been one of contention with encroaching settlers. With the Numu victory in the first battle of Pyramid Lake, May 12, 1860, more European-American men died than in any prior engagement west of the Mississippi.

Anaho Island, just to the south of the pyramid, was established as a national wildlife refuge in 1913 and is today one of the largest white pelican nesting grounds in North America.

4 Junction House First Settlement

at the intersection of South Virginia Street and Peckham Lane in south Reno

One of the busiest crossroads of pioneer Nevada converged at this point, serving many major toll roads of the area. The earliest emigrants from the east crossed through Truckee Meadows at this point, and by 1853, the intersection was known as Junction House, was the first permanent settlement in this valley and a stopping place for thousands.

Junction House, later called Andersons, was a station for toll roads of the 1860s including the turnpike to Washoe City, the Myron Lake Road to Oregon, the Geiger Road to Virginia City and the important Henness Pass route to California.

Governor Sparks bought the property in the late 1890s, and most recently it belonged to cattleman William Moffat.