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Elko's Water History


Elko, Elko County, Nevada


I can think of little we take for granted more than our water.  We turn on the tap and out she comes.  Well now, pun intended, most of our water comes from deep wells.  It was not always so.  

A circa 1976 article given to me by the Northeastern Nevada Museum, which was provided to them by Mr. Bob Pierce, outlines the Elko water system history (full article provided below).  This article states:  "It is interesting to note that the first water system for Elko was owned and operated by a Chinese named Hi Loy who with his foreman, Le Hi, constructed a wooden flume from Kittridge Canyon to a small reservoir above the China Ranch (presently the Elko City Park)..."  The article continues:  "In 1914 W. T. Smith, who then owned the water works, developed the Kittridge Canyon Springs and piped the water to two small reservoirs which served the city main."   

An August 2, 1994, article in the Elko Daily Free Press states:

"The city park is the former site of the China Ranch.  After completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869, thousands of Chinese railroad employees were discharged and sought refuge in small western boom towns.  In Elko, they planted vegetable gardens which came to be known as the China Ranch.  Produce was sold to local businesses and area mines.  The gardens were fed by two reservoirs in the hills north of the park near Elko Junior High  School and the large American flag that presently flies over the city."


In an earlier web page, we tried to locate Hi Loy's old flume to no avail (we have not given up yet).  The quest of this page was to find the two reservoirs.   This turned out to be easier than at first thought, as they are noted on a 1982 topographic map of Elko (shown below).  Both reservoirs are now gone - victims of progress, but evidence remains of the west pond.


USGS Topographic Map of Elko (1982)


USGS Aerial Photograph of Elko (1994)


Click on photos to see original high clarity digital photographs


circa 1976 article "City Water System History Outlined"


1982 USGS topographic map showing the location of the two reservoirs (upper left).  "Park" was the location of the China Ranch.

1994 USGS aerial photograph - original location of the two reservoirs can be seen in relation to the two water tanks (since this photo was taken a third tank has been constructed)



It is assumed that the smaller western pond location is marked with a white streak on the side hill.  The white material is most-likely bentonite - used to seal the pond bottom.
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The white streak on the side hill is easy to see from a distance.
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Elko's new Senior Center is built at the location of the eastern pond.  No evidence of the old pond could be located.  Photo looking south - Elko Hills are in the near distance and the tip of the Ruby Mountains can be seen above the Elko Hills.  The flag pole is the one mentioned in the 1994 Elko Daily Free Press article.

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Elko Senior Center - looking north.  According to the above topographic map the blue van would have been on the east edge of the pond.
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On the south side of the road - between the freeway and the Senior Center I found this old section of  pipe.  I would hazard a guess that it is part of the original water works (the pipe cannot be seen from the road - you have to walk up the bank).

020303pipe.JPG (339056 bytes)




Now, April 14, 2002,  that the snow is off and the roads were dry, my boy Harry, our neighbor Jordan, and I went to Kittridge Springs to see if we could find any evidence of Elko's old water system.  There was all sorts of history to see -  small dams, old pipelines, scrap metal, concrete boxes, and even a hand-laid old retaining wall.  We will have to go back.  There was too much to see in the couple of hours we were there.  The only evidence of the Chinese might be a hand-built retaining wall (photo below).  Here are some photos.
Kittridge Springs area
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Cave at Kittridge Springs area
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Hand-laid retaining wall at Kittridge Springs area
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Old pipe line at Kittridge Springs area.  You can trace remnants of this pipeline for several miles down the canyon.  The last place I could see the pipeline was where the houses are now built in Kittridge Canyon. 
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Elko's Original Water System - pipeline circa 1914 in Kittridge Canyon about a mile south of Kittridge Springs.
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pipeline circa 1914 in Kittridge Canyon located at the northern edge of houses.
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Kittridge Canyon, Elko, Elko County, Nv 

Elko, My Home, Elko, Elko County, Nv 

China Ditch, Osino - Elko, Elko County, Nv 





Additional Information:  Northeastern Nevada Museum



© 2002 - Elko Rose Garden Association

Recent Photos by Dan Turner