Idylls of the canal

PHOTO/FRANK X. MULLEN: The Steamboat Ditch and trail near Horseman's Park in Reno on Jan. 10. In winter, the willows have turned to rust and ice hugs the floor of sections of the canal, but hikers, runners and bikers still enjoy the amenity.

In winter the Steamboat Ditch slumbers as it awaits the explosion of new life that will come once the weather warms.

In spring and summer, the canal and the trail present a winding oasis in the southern reaches of the concrete-clad city. Enter the path nearly anywhere along its length and be embraced by nature.

Racoons, cottontails, jackrabbits and ground squirrels, deer and other critters inhabit the brush and tall grass. Coyotes and bobcats prowl. Songbirds flit among the cottonwoods and willows. Owls roost, awaiting darkness. Cattails sway at the waterline. Hawks wheel above the greenway, sharp-eyed and hunting, as they glide or hang motionless, borne on the clear summer air.

Photos of the Steamboat Ditch and trail

Here’s a look at what the hikers, dog-walkers, bikers, birders and runners have come to enjoy along the Steamboat Ditch trail.

PHOTO/MIKE BARNES: Steamboat Creek is a canal for irrigation water and intermittently flows from April to November..
PHOTO/MIKE BARNES: In summer, Steamboat Creek creates a lush environment.
PHOTO/EVE LISKE: A hawk roosts on a fence along the trail near Skyline.
PHOTO/MELINDA BIANCALANA: Wheeler Pond as seen from the Steamboat Ditch trail.
PHOTO/MIKE BARNES: Exploring the trail.
PHOTO/MELINDA BIANCALANA: Wildflowers along the trail.
PHOTO/MIKE BARNES: A lush section of the Steamboat Ditch in south Reno.

(The Steamboat Valley just south of Reno) is about 6,000 acres, and some of the finest farms in the county are located here. The water of Steamboat Creek and several irrigating ditches supply the necessary moisture for the crops, of which alfalfa, grain and vegetables are a great staple… In the midst of the valley lies the town of Reno. The future of this valley is bright and promising.” – Myron Angel, “History of Nevada,” 1881.

PHOTO/GARRETT BROTHERS: A peaceful scene along the Steamboat Ditch.
PHOTO/GARRETT BROTHERS: The Steamboat Ditch in summer.

Although users of the Steamboat Ditch trail wax lyrical about the path when the vegetation is in peak season, fall and winter also have their allure for trail users.

PHOTO/GREGG STOKES: The trail and canal in south Reno.
PHOTO/EVE LISKE: A winter scene along the Steamboat Ditch and trail.
PHOTO/EVE LISKE: The ditch is usually dry during the winter months except for patches of ice, occasional snow accumulation or runoff water from storms.

The Steamboat Ditch opened to water deliveries in July of 1880. For generations, Reno residents have used the easement along the ditch as a recreational path, although most of it isn’t designated as a public trail. Users of the amenity are worried that plans to replace sections of the open ditch with a buried pipeline will harm the ecosystem and restrict recreational use.

A Reno News & Review story about those plans accompanies this sidebar.

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