history

Many interesting historic events have occurred along the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey course. Here is a summary of some of the happenings:

  • This leg starts along and follows the Truckee River. The Washoe Indians inhabited this region for generations and lived in part on the large native cutthroat trout that they fished from this river and the Nevada desert lake where the river ends, Pyramid Lake. When Western Explorer John Fremont first saw this river in 1844, he named it the “Salmon Trout River” because the large cutthroat trout reminded him of the salmon in the Columbia River. Grateful pioneers renamed the river after a friendly Paiute Indian chief known as Truckee who guided them to this river after crossing the long, dry Nevada desert and who guided them safely over the nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range.
  • This leg follows parts of the Truckee River route of the California Emigrant Trail. The California Emigrant Trail was used by over 200,000 westward bound emigrants and gold seekers heading to the rich farmlands and gold fields of California in the 1840’s and 1850’s. This was the greatest mass migration in American History. The first emigrants who used this route were the Stephens party. They successfully passed through and over the mountains. The most infamous users of the Truckee River route were the Donner party of 1846. 40 of the 87 party members died of starvation-related causes when they were trapped at Donner Lake by heavy snows during the winter.
  • This leg continues along the Truckee River route of the California Emigrant Trail. There is a trail marker at the eastern end of Mayberry Park just off the pathway.
  • This leg also crosses and travels next to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, which are set in the path of where the original transcontinental railroad was built in the late 1860’s. The “Big Four” of Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis Huntington and Charles Crocker played major roles in the building of that railroad. So did Theodore Judah, who does not get as much credit for the monumental accomplishment of building that railroad. They all passed through here back at that time.
  • This leg travel along the path of the Lincoln Highway. This road was America’s first transcontinental highway, conceived in 1913. It later was called U.S. Highway 40, and after that was replaced by the current day Interstate 80. The old adage of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” applied here. This route proved to be a direct way to cross the country for the pioneers using wagons. The first transcontinental railroad followed suit. So when it came time to build the first road across America for automobiles, the same route was chosen again. All came right through here, within yards of each other and the Truckee River.
  • This leg continues along the Truckee River route of the California Emigrant Trail.
  • Where it crosses the Truckee River near the Verdi Elementary School, the Crystal Peak toll bridge was subsequently located there.
  • Just south are the railroad tracks. Not far from Verdi is the location where the first train robbery in the West occurred in 1870.
  • It continues on what was the Lincoln Highway.
  • This leg re-crosses the Truckee River where the Crystal Peak toll bridge was located and passes by the Crystal Peak cemetery.
  • It continues along the Truckee River route of the California Emigrant Trail. There are trail markers along Henness Pass Road. These were the last miles traveled by some members of the Donner Party.
  • This leg passes Boca Reservoir and crosses the Truckee River. At this location there existed a thriving town in the late 1800’s called Boca. It began as a work camp for the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Due to the cold temperatures, Boca was a natural place for the commercial ice cutting trade. In those days, there was a great demand for clear, cold mountain ice. Many ice companies operated in this area and produced ice that was used to ship fresh California produce around in the country. There also was a brewery here that made Boca Beer, one of the most popular beers in the U.S. in the 1880’s and served at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1883.
  • This leg travels aside the railroad tracks where the transcontinental railroad was built.
  • Parts of this leg travel on what was the Lincoln Highway.
  • This leg passes through historic Truckee, California. This town was founded in approximately 1866 and known as Pollard’s Station. It became a boom town in the late 1860’s due to the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Many Chinese laborers were used to build the railroad, leading to what was then the second largest Chinatown on the Pacific Coast. There were many mills nearby that harvested timber for trestles, ties, and fuel for wood burning locomotives, as well as for the mine shafts in the silver mines in Virginia City and the flumes that transported water around the area. In 1868 it was renamed for Paiute Indian Chief Truckee. Nearby at Donner Lake is a museum that tells the story of the Donner Party and other emigrants who passed through here on their way across the Sierra Nevada.
  • Squaw Valley Ski Resort hosted the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. That was the first Winter Olympics when the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviets.
  • This leg travels along the Truckee River Bike Path, which traces the route of the narrow gauge railway from Truckee to Tahoe City. San Francisco’s elite took the one hour train ride along this route as part of their journey to Lake Tahoe between the 1880’s and 1920’s. The railway ended on the huge Tahoe Tavern pier in Tahoe City. From there the 169 foot Steamer Tahoe transported guests to Lake Tahoe’s posh resorts around the lake, including McKinney’s (now Chamber’s Landing), Baldwin’s Tallac House and the Glenbrook Inn.
  • In 1844 John Fremont was the first white man to discover Lake Tahoe. In 1861 Mark Twain, then a newspaperman working in Virginia City, described Lake Tahoe as the “fairest picture the whole earth affords.”
  • These legs pass many estates that are now California state parks, including the Ehrman Mansion built in 1901-1903 and located in Sugar Pine Point State Park and the Vikingsholm castle built in 1929 and located along the shores of Emerald Bay.
  • This leg passes the Tallac Historic Site, where you can tour the Baldwin Estate, Pope Estate and Valhalla Estate homes, and historic Camp Richardson.
  • The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey is not the first long distance relay run to travel through these parts at all hours of the day and night. The Pony Express, a relay of mail by horses and riders that ran day and night, traveled through these parts back in 1860 and 1861. The Pony Express was created in April 1860 to provide the fastest mail delivery between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. The 2000 mile course had 165 stations. New riders took over every 75 to 100 miles. Fresh horses were used every 15 miles. But with the completion of the telegraph in October 1861, the Pony Express became obsolete and was finished.
  • These legs climb out of the Lake Tahoe Basin and then descend the famous Kingsbury Grade. The original Kingsbury Grade, which is nearby, was a toll road in 1860 to 1868. This was the main road between Sacramento and Virginia City. The toll for a wagon and 4 horses was $17.50. In 1863 toll receipts totaled $190,000. That’s a lot of wagons passing through.
  • The Pony Express followed this route.
  • The town of Mottsville existed at the foot of the mountains here. It was one of the first settlements in Nevada. All that remains is a small cemetery east of the road.
  • This leg ends in historic Genoa, which is Nevada’s first settlement dating back to 1851 (unless you ask someone from Dayton who may claim that it is Nevada’s first town). There are a number of museums here to enjoy, as well as Mormon State Park. You can also enjoy a drink at the oldest bar in Nevada, which is located at the main intersection.
  • One of the most famous historic figures from this area is Snowshoe Thompson. He delivered mail between Genoa and Placerville. In the winter he traveled back and forth using long, wooden skis.
  • This leg enters Carson City, which is Nevada’s capital city. It is named after Kit Carson, who was John Fremont’s scout. There are a number of museums here to enjoy, including the Nevada State Railroad Museum that houses locomotives and other artifacts from the Virginia & Truckee (V&T) Railroad, the famous railroad line that ran from Reno to Carson City, then to Virginia City and the Carson Valley. You can also visit the Nevada State Capitol Building and the Governor’s Mansion.
  • This leg, which crosses the Carson River twice, travels along part of the Carson River route of the California Emigrant Trail, another path used by the pioneers to reach California. There is a trail marker located at the corner of Deer Run Road and Morgan Mill Road.
  • The V&T Railroad passed near here on its way to Virginia City. The V&T Railroad was known as the Queen of the Short Lines. This part was constructed in 1870 to deliver silver ore from Virginia City to the mills in Carson City.
  • This leg passes through the Comstock Lode town of Silver City. At the end of this leg it passes through the narrow gorge known as Devil’s Gate. Thousands of adventurous souls paraded through this point as they made their way to the silver mines of the Comstock Lode.
  • This leg passes through the Comstock Lode town of Gold Hill and crosses the tracks of the resurrected V&T Railroad. There is an ongoing project to continue the resurrected V&T Railroad all the way to Carson City.
  • This leg reaches Virginia City, which was the center of the Comstock Lode silver boom days. Silver was discovered here in 1859. Millions of dollars were made here, some by men like James Flood and James Fair who owned mines and then built famous mansions and hotels on San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Mark Twain was a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise, Virginia City’s newspaper at that time. Virginia City is the United States’ largest historical monument. There is much to see here, from the inspiring churches and the Silver Terrace Cemetery to Piper’s Opera House, Mackay Mansion and the Bucket of Blood Saloon. As you walk along the main street, it is not difficult to imagine what things looked like back in the Comstock Lode days.
  • This leg descends the famous Geiger Grade. The Old Toll Road, which was the original highway from the Truckee Meadows to the Comstock Lode established in 1862, runs in the canyon near the paved highway. Thousands of passengers and millions in precious cargo were transported on stages, wagons, and 10 mule freighters. Lurking highwaymen frequented the road too, at places like Robbers Roost and Deadman’s Point.
  • Greg Lemond used this paved highway as one of his training ride routes. He holds the unofficial time record for climbing the highway on a bicycle.
  • This leg travels along and crosses parts of the Truckee River route of the California Emigrant Trail and passes near an area known as Donner Springs where the Donner Party rested in the Truckee Meadows before heading out to make their infamous trip into the Sierra Nevada. A local elementary school is named Donner Springs Elementary School.
  • This leg ends in Sparks, Nevada, named after one of Nevada’s first governors.
  • This leg travels through Downtown Reno. The origin of the city of Reno dates back to 1859 when there was a toll station and bridge over the Truckee River where the Virginia Street bridge is located today. The toll bridge was later known as Lake’s Crossing. Myron Lake’s selling nearby property to Charles Crocker ensured that the Transcontinental Railroad would pass through this area. In 1868 Crocker sold the first lots in the new town and named it “Reno” after his friend and Civil War hero and Union General Jesse Reno.
  • The relay course passes right by the Harrah’s Automobile Museum, where many historic cars are on display, and the former site of the Mapes Hotel where celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable stayed when they were filming The Misfits.