Desert Peach.

Wind and wildflowers: A hike to the Last Chance Ditch diversion dam

In Spring, Truckee River trails by KelseyFitzgerald2 Comments

I grew up in upstate New York, where spring comes gradually, and never fast enough.  In Reno, I’ve noticed that spring is more of a series of bipolar swings between summer and winter, interspersed with high winds.  First, a week of beautiful, balmy days assures you, prematurely, that summer has arrived. Then, hurricane-force winds blast down from the Sierras (Read Mark Twain’s account of the Washoe Zephyr), and a few days of wintery cold follow. Slowly things warm up again, until all is balmy and beautiful. We plan barbecues and camping trips, and a day later, another wind-storm rolls through.  Snowflakes in the forecast, hats and sweaters back out of the closet; this goes on for two or three months, and it’s a surprise every time.

Like many people, I love getting outside on the summery spring days, and cower inside during the rest. Last night there was a sharp wind blowing, and a snowstorm in the forecast.  If it hadn’t been for my bouncing dogs, I would have stayed home — but they never do seem to care about bad weather, so we headed for the river and wandered an unnamed trail to the Last Chance Ditch diversion dam.

Heading west on the trail to the Last Chance Ditch diversion dam. April 6,

Heading west on the trail to the Last Chance Ditch diversion dam.  April 6, 2015.

The Truckee River from the Last Chance Ditch overlook trail. April 6, 2015.

The Truckee River from the Last Chance Ditch overlook trail. April 6, 2015.

From the trailhead, the dogs and I walked northwest along an unmarked path, which winds behind a neighborhood and through sweet-smelling patches of Desert peach (Prunus andersonii).  The trail curves down a small hill and across a creek, where a few bright yellow Antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) bloomed.  Then, the trail continues up a steep hill, and kept us up high for a while, with nice views over the Truckee.

Desert peach (Prunus andersonii) blooming along the trail, April 6, 2015.

Desert peach (Prunus andersonii) blooming along the trail, April 6, 2015. 

Antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) in bloom. April 6, 2015.

Antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) in bloom. April 6, 2015. 

Looking down on the Truckee from the trail. April 6, 2015.

Looking down on the Truckee from the trail. April 6, 2015.

From the trail, you can see the old River Inn across the river on West 4th Street.  The River Inn was built on the site of a hot spring — once called the Granite Hot Spring, later the Lawton Hot Spring.  From the 1920s to the 1970s, there was a spa and resort on the site.  In the 1970s, the motel and cabins that you see today were added to the site.  For more information on the history of the River Inn, check out this blog post from Rereno.

Since this trail looks down over the river from the hills, you get to see nice upland wildflowers that don’t grow closer to the river’s edge.  Along the trail, I saw blooming Sonn’s Desert Parsley (Lomatium austinae), Daggerpod (Phoenicaulis cheiranthoides), Long-leaf phlox (Phlox longifolia) and a Desert paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa).  In the river below, I could see a few pairs of fishermen and Canada geese.

In the distance, a Truckee River landmark: The River Inn. April 6, 2015.

In the distance, a Truckee River landmark: The River Inn. April 6, 2015.

Sonn’s Desert Parsley (Lomatium austinae) blooming along the trail, April 6, 2015.

Sonn’s Desert Parsley (Lomatium austinae) blooming along the trail, April 6, 2015. 

Daggerpod (Phoenicaulis cheiranthoides) in bloom. April 6, 2015.

Daggerpod (Phoenicaulis cheiranthoides) in bloom. April 6, 2015. 

Desert paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa) blooming along the trail. April 6, 2015.

Desert paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa) blooming along the trail. April 6, 2015. 

The wind turned out to be mild, and we saw loads of blooming wildflowers and a silvery sunset. This trail doesn’t drop down to the water until the very end, where it comes to the diversion dam for the Last Chance Ditch. I’m not sure how it got its name. Does anyone out there know the story?

Looking down on the Truckee from the trail. April 6, 2015.

Looking down on the Truckee from the trail. April 6, 2015.


Directions: To get to the trailhead, take Fourth Street west to Woodland Ave (left), then turn Right onto White Fir.  Cross over the Truckee, then take your third right onto River Flow Drive.  At Damselfly Drive, turn left, and park.  The trail begins at the end of this street. The walk is about a mile each way (two miles, round-trip).

The trail to the Last Chance Ditch diversion dam begins at the end of Damselfly Drive, Reno.

The trail to the Last Chance Ditch diversion dam begins at the end of Damselfly Drive, in Reno. View Google Map Here.

Comments

  1. Could I buy the Desert Inn? It looks like a great spot to keep a small Inn not a Casino!

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