Historic Artifacts Found Along the Incline Flume Trail on Duffields property in Lake Tahoe May Be Eligible for the National Historic Registry

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Dave Duffield, Eco-Tourism and the Bonanza Fan Club all share a common thread. Their paths meet on a famous piece of property, rich with historic artifacts called Ponderosa Ranch located above the North East shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The remains on the Bull Wheel from 1960

There is a critical need to protect these historical artifacts along the Incline Flume trail, as well as getting this trail sanctioned into the Public Trail system.

The 550-acre ranch was purchased in 2004 by Workday founder and PeopleSoft co-founder Dave Duffield. The ranch was the staged backdrop for the Bonanza TV series and Ponderosa Ranch theme park and also contains a portion of one of the most scenic hiking trails in Lake Tahoe - The Incline Flume Trail.

More importantly near the Incline Flume stands the remains of the only Bull Wheel ever used in logging history. From 1880 to 1894, two steam-powered wheels hauled hundreds of cords of lumber a day up a 1,400 ft incline that were then floated, via a large wooden water flume, 3,994 feet through a mountain tunnel. Although the tunnel collapsed in 1957, remnants of the flume that carried the lumber are evident on the Incline and Marlette Flume hiking and biking trails.

There is a critical need to protect these historical artifacts along the Incline Flume trail, as well as getting this trail sanctioned into the Public Trail system. The latter not possible if the trail is under private ownership.

Duffield has proposed to give 18 acres of his property to Washoe County, including part of the Incline Flume trail and the Bull Wheel, in exchange for an unusable lake access strip. This 800 sq.ft. strip of land bisects Duffield’s lakefront property. It was deemed unsafe and closed by Washoe County more than 7 years ago. If the County Commissioners approve the land exchange, it will result in Washoe County acquiring acreage the equivalent of trading Rhode Island for Alaska and Texas combined.

Duffield has retained archaeologist Dr. Susan Lindström PhD, who field-directed two Donner Party camp excavations in 1987 and 1990, for the initial field work studies on the Bull Wheel and Flume area site.

Lindstrom, a forty year veteran in historic sites excavation, focuses on the study and preservation of mining, logging and ranching archaeology in the Great Basin area and surrounding Sierras. She and her team have searched the area for artifacts and historical evidence on Duffield’s portion of the property. Dr. Lindström states, “The rich number of findings in the area reveal multiple ‘Tender’s camps’ and the need to preserve the Bull Wheel. Our initial findings prove that the Bull Wheel meets all the requirements that could make it eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Duffield is also consulting with Gary Ghio, a Historic Engineer, on the preservation and restoration of the Bull Wheel.

This proposed land exchange has caught the attention of historians, archaeologists, educators and outdoor enthusiasts, who see the importance of the preservation of these artifacts while enhancing ecotourism in the Tahoe Basin.

According to the manager who oversees the Ponderosa property, “Dave has always loved the Bonanza Property, and when it came up for sale, he bought it. He has been doing a lot of refurbishing and maintenance work to preserve the ranch's local history, including restoration of over 180,000 square feet of old roads to prevent continued soil erosion and improve water quality impact of Lake Tahoe."

Yet Dave is not the only one who holds a special place in his heart for the world renowned Ponderosa Ranch and Bonanza theme park. Today, there are millions of Bonanza Fans and several fan clubs worldwide. In 2009, on the 50th Anniversary of the Bonanza TV series, Dave agreed to open up the ranch for a one-day private visit for nearly 250 elated Bonanza and Cartwright family enthusiasts. The highly popular TV series ran from 1959 to 1973 with 430 episodes, and although most of the filming took place on a set in Burbank, CA, the Lake Tahoe location had complete structures built such as the Cartwright log cabin home and the Virginia City Saloon where 17 episodes were filmed.

Although officially closed to the public today, this past July for the 55th Anniversary of Bonanza, Dave once again opened the gates for a private group of dedicated fans from as far away as England and Germany. Dressed in outfits fashioned from the Wild West in the 1800s, several shared their passion and nostalgia for the show and it’s cast of characters. Judy Ward of England and Ellen DiIorio of New Jersey were dressed in Victorian dresses complete with bonnets and parasols. Judy had fallen in love with Little Joe when she was an eleven-year-old girl. Her bedroom walls were plastered with photos and posters of Michael Landon in his Bonanza costumes. For Ellen, it was Hoss Cartwright who stole her heart.

Gary Nicholson, a Hoss fan since he was nine, came to the Ponderosa Ranch dressed as Hoss - wearing a vest he purchased at a Bonanza Convention worn by Dan Blocker who played Hoss on the TV show. Duffield donated all proceeds from the event to the Incline Village & Crystal Bay Historical Society.

So where does ecotourism fit into all of this?

Ecotourism, as established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people."

According to Sue Hughes, President of Friends of Incline Trails or F.I.T., “The opportunity to place the historic Bull Wheel and surrounding Flume trail into the hands of Washoe County is very important for Lake Tahoe and trail users. This would not only allow for conservation of the forest land and preservation of these historical sites, but it also allows for the Incline Flume trail to be integrated into an official trail system – in this case managed by USFS land and Nevada State Parks. In its current configuration across private land it cannot be repaired or improved, although numerous outdoor enthusiasts cross it daily. Public ownership and adoption into the legal trail system would also help prevent further development of unsafe and non-sanctioned trails that ultimately harm the environment and Lake Tahoe. We are thrilled to have recently received a generous donation from Ponderosa Ranch LLC, to help further our efforts in working with State and Federal land agencies to improve and incorporate local trails for all to enjoy.”

According to TIES, "Ecotourism involves visiting natural areas—in the remote wilderness or rural environments, with the intention to protect something, especially an environmentally or culturally important place or thing from harm or destruction. Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel." The efforts of F.I.T in conjunction with Mr. Duffield are accomplishing these very objectives.

The decision, to place the Incline Flume Trail and Bull Wheel into the public domain now rests in the Hands of Washoe County’s Commissioners, as they make their assessment of the exchange proceedings.

F.I.T. is an all volunteer, non-profit organization for the improvement of Trails in the Incline Village community. To donate to the ongoing preservation and maintenance of Incline Trails and receive trail development updates, go to http://www.inclinetrails.org or Facebook.

For more information on the history of the Bull Wheel and Incline Trail please go to http://www.ponderosaranch.com or visit us on Facebook.

By June Joseph, PR Specialist

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June Joseph
JJ Consulting
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