Steamboat Ditch and the Tom Cooke Trail to Hole in the Wall

Back In February Duke and I hiked the Tom Cooke Trail to Hole in the Wall. This hike is on page 233 of the book Afoot & Afield Reno-Tahoe A comprehensive hiking Guide by Mike White. The trail starts right next to the Patagonia Outlet on the Truckee River and heads south and then west along the Steamboat Ditch to where the ditch goes through a tunnel.

If you are familiar with Reno you are familiar with the ditches but otherwise you are probably wondering what I am talking about. Reno has a series of canals that carry water from the Truckee river for irrigation. I wanted to know more about the Steamboat Ditch but had a hard time finding any information. The Reno library wasn't able to help me.

Finally today I went to the library at the Nevada Historical Society. The people there were incredibly helpful and I learned a lot.

As the Reno area was first being settled in the second half of the nineteenth century most ranches got there water by buying shares in a ditch company. About 130 miles of ditches were created in the Reno area primarily for irrigation. 

The last ditch company was formed in 1877. It was the Truckee & Steamboat Irrigating Canal Company. Trustees  hired Chinese labor to construct the 33 miles of canal. White laborers were angry and announced that they would drive the Chinese out by force. In spite of their threats the Steamboat Ditch was opened July 1, 1880. It took two years and $40,000 to build

The Steamboat Ditch starts at the Nevada-California Line near interstate 80 west of Reno. Water is taken out of the Truckee river and is carried in flumes and through canals to an area south of Reno near Steamboat Creek. On our hike we walked along the ditch to one end of a tunnel that was built through a hill above the river. It is a long dark tunnel and you can just see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hile in the wall 003
Hile in the wall 005

During the winter if you ever take Interstate 80 into Reno you can see the flume for the Steamboat Ditch on the other side of the river. The icicles hanging down underneath the flume are beautiful.


There are other paths to hike along the canal and I am looking forward to exploring more of the Steamboat Ditch and learning more about it.

Author: marionvermazen

I am a traveler, hiker, avid reader, Sun alumnus, computer geek, Spanish and French language student, knitter and genealogist. I am retired after working for almost 30 years in the Computer Industry. I live in Reno, Nevada with my husband Duke.

3 thoughts on “Steamboat Ditch and the Tom Cooke Trail to Hole in the Wall”

  1. I took my husband and 2 dogs on the hike to the hole in the wall. I came back with the same questions you had. I am glad you wrote all of this, we enjoyed the day even more learning the history, thank you.


  2. Thank you for providing a little history on the Steamboat Ditch. Amazing that such a prominent feature in our area is not documented more thoroughly.


  3. fascinating
    igrew up on Ryland st in renoand the steamboat ditch ran past my home and intersected Kirman the hill there was closed in winter so us kids could go sledding good times


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