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It Ought To Be Illegal
It ought to be illegal, that is what both miners and farmers argued in court. The argument over an ambitious ditch built by Mexicans in 1860 to supply water from the Carson River to the ore mills of the Comstock. The project, while not on par with the pyramids, was a huge undertaking. Fifteen feet wide at the top and eight feet wide at the bottom, the ditch had a grade of one foot per mile. The ditch extends for about 4 miles and empties back into the Carson River. The miners won the battle in court to the water rights but lost the war as mining was over by 1907. The farmers still use the ditch for irrigating the fertile soil of Carson Valley.
The hike starts at the Carson River Park. Almost immediately you cross a walk thru and onto private property. This is Silver Saddle Ranch, a working ranch in which BLM and the city of Carson City have worked out an agreement for access. The Carson River on your left creates a ribbon of green as it passes thru the desert. Lined with ancient cottonwood trees, the corridor thrives with wildlife. The river originates near Carson Pass high in the Sierra and is fed by melting snows. A raging river in the spring, the flow slows to a trickle late in summer as the snows diminish. The trail is on the tailings of the Mexican Ditch diggings. It's a great family trail as its smooth and not much altitude change. Prison Hill is to your right and the Pine Nut Mountains are to the left. Animal trails can be seen both right and left along the way as they access the water. The trail ends at the Mexican Dam. The Dam built in 1860 diverts some of the Carson River water to the Mexican Ditch. Most of the original dam is still there built from stone. It is over one hundred feet wide and fifteen feet high and has been compromised by floods many times. Lacking formal funding, the farmers do makeshift repairs using anything they can find and concrete to reinforce the dam. Many such repairs are tagged with initials and dates. Old tree trunks and wood timbers are placed against the wall trying to keep it in place. The dam is comfortably wide enough to walk across the river and get a closer examination. Perhaps after a snack return the way you came.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
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