NorCal casino adds indoor venue rivaling anything Tahoe has

NorCal casino adds indoor venue rivaling anything Tahoe has

The Venue at Thunder Valley Casino is less than a year old. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln was being built more than 20 years ago, casino operators and tourism officials in Lake Tahoe and Reno called it a threat. The $100 million, 4,500-seat music venue that opened earlier this year could be even more of a problem.

The Bally’s (former MontBleu and Caesars) showroom holds 1,700 people, Harrah’s Tahoe seats about 1,900, while the new event center at Stateline will accommodate more than 5,000 people.

The Venue—as the facility in Placer County is called—is outstanding. The 150,000-square-foot structure is beautiful, functional and welcoming. Three levels offer fantastic views of the performer from comfortable seats. Two large screens brought her into better view from our vantage point. In many ways it felt like being in a large theater, which is much better than a stadium.

Slots are mostly the new style, left, with a few of the older ones, right, still on the floor. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The acoustics are state of the art. Which was perfect for listening to Jewel earlier this month.

The Venue replaces Thunder Valley’s 5,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, that was built in 2011. Plans are for the new building to host 80 to 90 musical, comedy and sporting events a year.

I look forward to seeing a performance at the Tahoe Event Center to be able to compare it to Thunder Valley. Yes, I know the two are different, but still, the Stateline facility intends to bring in musical acts.

Roulette is available electronically. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Thunder Valley, which is owned and operated by the United Auburn Indian Community, opened in June 2003. When it first started Las Vegas-based Station Casinos operated the site.

What was striking is how big the casino floor was. It seemed to go on forever. Multiple aisles separated various games, allowing for easy walking and never feeling closed in.

It has 250,000 square feet of gaming space–including more 2,700 slot and video machines, 103 table games and a live poker room with space for 240 players. This is more square footage than all of the South Shore casinos combined.

Jewel plays to a nearly sold-out crowd Sept. 15 at The Venue. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Harveys in Stateline has 88,000 square feet of gaming, Harrah’s Tahoe 65,000 square feet, Bally’s 45,000, and Golden Nugget (formerly Hard Rock Lake Tahoe) 22,750.

Few of the slot machines I’m used to existed. In their place are large, colorful, tall machines. I was even surprised to see electronic roulette. I know, I don’t go to casinos often—so all the games might be what every casino offers. They were so colorful and inviting, though I was able to walk on by.

Two reasons I don’t often go to casinos are because they are not where I want to spend my money and the smoke makes me want to run for the exit. In the short amount of time I was in Thunder Valley my eyes hurt and clothes wreaked. Thank goodness The Venue is a smoke-free site.

The front of Thunder Valley from a bar inside The Venue. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The upside to the casino that night was I left the blackjack table with enough chips to buy a round of drinks for the two of us, so it was a profitable experience.

Another thing about Thunder Valley—free parking inside the garage. Free parking at a Tahoe casino?—not a chance. Oh, and that new event center in Stateline—no parking at all; in other words, you have to pay somewhere else to park.

Popular Lake Tahoe roadway and summit full of history

Popular Lake Tahoe roadway and summit full of history

Kingsbury Grade transports people between Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Thousands of people drive up and down Kingsbury Grade and over Daggett Summit every day without thinking about how they got their names.

Charles Daggett may have one or two T’s in his last name. The sign atop the 7,334 foot summit that splits the South Shore of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley has two T’s in Daggett. The state historical marker along Foothill Road uses one. An 1889 U.S. Geological Society map calls the route Daggetts Pass, no apostrophe. The Nevada State Library Archives (NSLA) uses two T’s.

Daggett was Nevada’s first doctor. Born in 1806 in Vermont, he attended Berkshire Medical College in Massachusetts where he also earned a law degree. In 1851, he moved to Mormon Station, now part of Genoa. In 1855, he became prosecuting attorney, county assessor, and tax collector of Carson County.

Image: Kathryn Reed

The Foothill Road historical marker says: “Originally named Georgetown Trail, the Dagget Pass Trail and Pass was named after Charles Dagget who acquired the land at the base of the road in 1854. In 1859-1860, David Kingsbury and John McDonald received a franchise from the Utah Territory to operate the toll road. At the time, the area was part of the Utah Territory. The men spent about $70,000 to construct a wagon road to meet the demand for a more direct route from California to the Washoe mines and to shorten the distance between Sacramento and Virginia City by 10 miles. The new 16 foot wide road, supported in some places by granite retaining walls on both sides, made the passage easier for travelers on this main route from California. Merchants and teamsters frequently traveled this road moving goods and people in and out of Nevada. In 1863, some of the tolls were 50 cents for a man and horse and $2 for a horse and buggy. That year the estimated tolls collected were $75,000.”



“People in Carson Valley had never paid taxes before and were outraged. Dr. Daggett’s life was openly threatened over this,” NSLA states.

Hours before trying his first case, Daggett became Nevada’s first “resident” attorney on Nov. 2, 1855. The area previously had legal counsel from a Placerville man.

“One of his last known distinctions occurred when he was appointed a member of the Committee of Arrangements for the formation of the Second Convention to form a separate territory out of the Utah Territory. With Dr. Daggett’s persistence, this territory became the state of Nevada,” NSLA documents state. “After his political career he settled down in the Genoa area and there is no official surviving document attesting to the year or age at which he died.

“Kingsbury Road, where (his) cabin was located, was a trail that had been established shortly before Daggett moved to the community.”

Visit Carson Valley contends the route was first a footpath established by the Washoe Tribe to get from one side of the mountain to the other.

Helen Carlson in “Nevada Place Names” wrote: “… in 1854, (Daggett) staked out a claim to 640 acres embracing its debouchment. After this considerable acquisition the name Georgetown gave way to that of Daggett Trail and Pass.”

Daggett Summit is one of a handful of routes into and out of the Lake Tahoe Basin. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Georgetown refers to the California Gold Rush town that was promoting this route as a faster than going over what was called Carson Canyon, which was actually the better road.

Carlson’s book introduces Kingsbury Grade: “… named for the Kingsbury brothers, who built it. The trail was opened as a wagon road in 1860 by D.D. Kingsbury and John M. McDonald. A.B. Kingsbury, one of the brothers, was killed in a snowslide in the mountains in 1861.”

Visit Carson Valley called this new Kingsbury route a 7-mile wagon road that ranged from 8 to 16 feet in width. Today, it’s 11.08 miles, with a grade less than 9 percent.

No one disputes today’s route is different.

“Old Kingsbury Grade is located in Haines Canyon, west of and below Daggett Summit, earlier known as Daggett’s Pass. The route started at a point approximately 2.65 miles north along State Route 206 (Foothill Road) from its intersection with the current Kingsbury Grade, State Route 207,” emailed Meg Ragonese, Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman. “Today, the alignment differs from the original alignment which ran from Foothill Road next to the old Van Sickle station and Muller Lane, straight up Haines/Dagget Canyon across the current Kingsbury Grade and continuing onto Dagget Summit near the Nevada side of Heavenly Valley. Much of the old alignment was at one time designated as SR19 and FAS559.” (FAS = Federal Aid Secondary.)

In the 1923-24 Department of Highways fourth biennial report, it calls Kingsbury Grade the “oldest road over the Sierras (stet) with grades up to 30 percent.”

It became part of the state highway system in 1929. However, “a road connecting Lake Tahoe to the Carson Valley appears on the first official state highway map of 1919,” Ragonese said.

She added, “Small sections of Kingsbury Grade are recorded as being paved in 1951, 1958, and 1959. … beginning in approximately 1965, other sections were paved as part of a U.S. Bureau of Public Roads National Forest Highway System project. By 1968, the entire route was paved as part of the construction of the current Kingsbury Grade alignment, which was still designated as State Route 19 around that time.”

When it started being called Kingsbury Grade and more about who it’s named after could not be ascertained from historical agencies in Nevada.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

Once thriving Nevada town reduced to roadside marker

Once thriving Nevada town reduced to roadside marker

A marker in Douglas County on Foothill Road commemorates the town of Sheridan. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Sheridan was once a metropolis in Nevada.

Do you even know where this Douglas County town is located?

Well, it’s not a town anymore. As with so many towns that sprouted in the West, settlers moved on and the town withered away.

A marker on Foothill Road in the Carson Valley tells a brief story about the area.

The historical marker in full says, “In 1861, a blacksmith shop, a store, boarding house, and two saloons comprised the village of Sheridan. The village had grown up around Moses Job’s general store, established prior to 1855. The Surveyor General, in his 1889-90 biennial report, stated that Sheridan was the metropolis of the Carson River West Fork farmers. The Sheridan House, erstwhile boarding abode, has been converted to a dwelling. It may be seen across the road. It is all that remains of the ‘metropolis.’ Moses Job, an irrepressible man, climbed the peak above this location, planted the American flag and with a shout named the peak after himself. Job’s Canyon is above, and to its left is Job’s Peak. To its right is Job’s Sister.”

1861 is when Job sold the store and 800 acres that included the original town site to J.W. Haines and I.W. Duncan, according to Clairitage Press.

The town’s name supposedly came from Union Army Gen. Philip Henry Sheridan. However, he didn’t become a general until 1888.

Until reading the marker last month I didn’t know how Job’s Peak, which is prominent from the South Shore, got its name.

At 10,638 feet, it the fourth tallest peak in the Tahoe area. Freel Peak is at 10,886 feet, Job’s Sister is 10,823 feet, and Mount Rose is 10,785 feet.

Sprawling outdoor museum pays homage to logging industry

Sprawling outdoor museum pays homage to logging industry

A fresh log becomes wood planks at the Oregon museum. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Remnants of the logging industry are scattered about Oregon like sawdust.

One place this is evident is at the Collier Logging Museum, which is less than two hours south of Bend, Ore., on Highway 97.

People have been cutting down trees for millennia—for fire, shelter, weapons, tools, money, environmental health. You name it. The evolution of tools to cut that timber and move it are on display at the Collier museum, which culls history from the late 1800s to present day.

The name of this state-owned site comes from brothers Alfred and Andrew Collier who gave Oregon 146 acres in 1945 to honor their parents. The state parlayed that into a 536-acre park, with the museum occupying the 146 acres the brothers intended for preservation.

The museum lost about 100 of its 10,000 artifacts in the 2020 Two-Four-Two Fire that burned through the park. Damage is still evident.

Free self-guided walking tours allow for one to set the pace of exploration. Relics from the 1860s to today fill the landscape. The trail is sectioned off with Horse and Oxen—1860-1900, Steam—1890-1920, and Internal Combustion (1920-today).

Some of the equipment is so rusted it looks like it belongs in a scrap heap, while most appears to be useable today.

While signage with explanations of what various apparatus were used for are plentiful, it was still at times hard to imagine how exactly these things worked. To see them fired up would be an incredible experience.

Logging equipment that looks like something out of an erector set. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The innovation, creativity, know-how to understand how to develop these tools and then use them is amazing. To see a machine limb a tree and be able to stack the “poles” in piles is mesmerizing.

Fresh cut planks at the museum proved that some of the machines are still put to use at least for demonstration purposes.

At the museum an old blacksmith shop with tools from another era show the ingenuity of those tasked with creating and maintaining instruments for the industry. With how little use my chain saw gets these days, maybe I should donate it to the collection here.

Timber was once big business in Oregon.

“In the 1970s, timber employed over 80,000 Oregonians. This accounted for roughly 1 in 10 private sector jobs, 12 percent of Oregon’s gross domestic product, and 13 percent of private sector wages. By 2019, Oregon’s logging industry amounted to only 30,000 employees, closer to 1 in 50 private sector jobs,” according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Much of the equipment at the museum is large in size. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A key advance was the railroad. As one sign says, “The railroad pushed into the Klamath forest in 1909 to haul the timber out where roads weren’t feasible. It allowed loggers to penetrate more deeply into forests and gave them access to many more trees than before. Logging operations could now move their mills far from the logging site.”

In the section starting in 1980, it says, “Engineering took the upper hand in the late 20th century logging. Both machinery and roads reflected the ingenuity and changing times. Powerful caterpillars, skidders, yarders, machines with grapple hooks, helicopter sky cranes, and balloons with ‘sky hooks’ enabled loggers to move trees from canyons and hillsides. New roads with bridges, rather than culverts, heavy gravel or paving and special grades to prevent erosion were part of lagging mandated by state forest practices laws.”

I recognize there are plenty of reasons not to like the logging industry—raping of the land being a big one. But I live in a wood house. I have a wood fence. I have burned wood for fuel. I work in the newspaper industry and want people to buy my books. I don’t see wood products not being part of my life in some aspect even if it’s not something I think about on a daily basis. That’s why I won’t condemn responsible logging.

I will advocate for better management of forests, while at the same time admiring the innovation that allows for growing, harvesting and milling of that wood.

Big blades are needed to saw through large-diameter trees. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

According to OurWordInData website, “10,000 years ago 57 percent of the world’s habitable land was covered by forest. That’s 6 billion hectares. Today, only 4 billion hectares are left. The world has lost one-third of its forest—an area twice the size of the United States.”

The museum acknowledges the pains of decades of logging.

“Workers, sawmill owners, and corporate investors confronted bad news in the late 20th century. The mosaic forests—old-growth, regenerating trees, and brush fields from fires were nearly all cut. The flow of timer from national forest dropped dramatically because of part harvest rats, set asides of wilderness area, and impact of environmental legislation.”

At the same time, part of the blame for the decline in logging and lumber manufacturing, according the museum, is put on “protection for fish, birds, mammals, rare and endangered plants, and cultural resources.”

While this is true, the tone came across as an either/or scenario instead of embracing cooperation, understanding and compromise. That was unfortunate.

Information goes on to say, “Timber companies developed habitat protection plans and set aside protection zones along streams. Reforestation became essential for the company that wanted to have a future. Some saw the logger and mill worker as yet another obsolete profession.”

The Collier Logging Museum in Chiloquin, Ore., offers free walking tours. (Image: Kathryn Reed)



  • Address: 46000 Highway 97 North, Chiloquin, Oregon
  • Phone number: 541.783.2471
  • Hours: 8am to 8pm June-September, and 8am to 4pm October-May
  • Website


Tina Turner musical a high-energy tribute to a legend

Tina Turner musical a high-energy tribute to a legend

What a force. That energy. The resiliency. And that voice.

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Tina Turner.

While I never saw her in person, on Sunday I saw The Tina Turner Musical in San Francisco. Outstanding.

As most people will know, Turner’s story is filled with abuse—physical, mental, emotional, financial—probably more. But that voice of hers, that determination, finally that belief in herself propelled her to become a force to be reckoned with. To become the queen of rock ’n roll.

I find it amazing how playwrights can capture the essence of one’s life in just a couple hours. The Broadway production closed in August 2022 before launching a 30-city tour in the U.S. It seemed even more special to see the show with Turner’s death in May at the age 83.

Two actresses—Zurin Villanueva and Naomi Rodgers—take turns portraying Turner in this traveling production. It’s understandable two people are needed for the role because of the intensity and athleticism needed to be Tina.

Many of the songs people will know, others were new to me as I’m not a Turner devotee. Nonetheless, it was all captivating.

The adult concepts might make it not age-appropriate for youngsters, but otherwise most everyone is likely to enjoy the show.



  • The show runs through Aug. 27 at the Golden Gate Theater, San Francisco.
  • It will be at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts Aug. 29-Sept. 3.
  • The show is coming to the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno Sept. 26-Oct. 1.
Locks of love add to scenic overlook

Locks of love add to scenic overlook

Much of Butte Creek Canyon unfolds from the lookout along the Skyway. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In a state that seems overdeveloped, pausing at the Paradise Lookout is a reminder how vast California really is.

It’s easy to miss this lookout along the Skyway between Chico and Paradise. The view, well, it’s spectacular—better than what photos convey.

From here people look into the Butte Creek Canyon. It, too, was severely impacted by the 2018 Camp Fire, with multiple homes destroyed and the landscape ravaged. Even so, there is so much beauty here no matter the time of year.

Love locks accessorize the fence overlooking Butte Creek Canyon. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The county in 2005 bought the land to turn it into a vista. Butte County and Paradise officials came together to make the lookout a destination of sorts. Before the approximately 4-foot-high fence was erected in 2008 this area was a launching point for people to drive off the cliff to die by suicide.

Much of the $400,000 construction costs came from the county via federal grants, with the city of Paradise contributing $10,000.

A few informational signs that have not weathered well are in the parking lot. Some of the information on them include:

  • Butte Creek originates to the east at an elevation of 7,087 feet on the west edge of the Cascade Mountain Range.
  • The creek is about 25 miles long, with the terminus being the Sacramento River.
  • The surrounding watershed encompasses 510,000 acres.
  • The creek has 14 miles of spawning grounds for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

Since the fence was installed it has become a popular place for people to attach a lock.

According to LoveLocksOnline, the history of love locks goes back hundreds of year. “(It’s) believed to have originated in China—where lovers lock a padlock on a chain or gate and then throw away the key, symbolically locking their love forever.”

Locks of all shapes and sizes adorn the Paradise Lookout fence. Multiple ones were locked together, while most were single locks. Some have initials on them. There were too many count.

Emotional drive through thick of Caldor Fire devastation

Emotional drive through thick of Caldor Fire devastation

Dead trees from the Caldor Fire continue to be harvested. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It took 69 days to contain the Caldor Fire.

How many years, if ever, will it take for the forest to recover? For people to heal? For Grizzly Flats to be rebuilt?

It’s been nearly two years since the inferno was reportedly started at the hands of target shooters. The Aug. 14, 2021, blaze charred 221,835 acres in El Dorado, Alpine and Amador counties, and reduced 1,005 structures to ash.

Charred trees reach for the heavens to no avail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

CalFire lists it as the 16th most destructive fire in the state’s history, to date.

It cost more than $1 billion to extinguish.

Stands of dead trees still show how dense the forest was. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Last month I drove through a large swath of the burn area for the first time. I went along Highway 88 west before turning right on Mormon Emigrant Trail and ending up on Highway 50 in Pollock Pines.

I had already driven through the scar along Highway 50. Plus, I’ve biked and hiked areas of it on the South Shore.

The scar from the Caldor Fire goes on for miles. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

But this latest excursion, well, it literally made my stomach ache. At times I was surrounded by the devastation in a way that differed from my other experiences. I think it had to do with the views—how far I could see the denuded landscape.

The other experiences I felt more closed in. So, while I was immersed in charred terrain, I didn’t feel the enormity of it.

It’s hard to escape the devastation while driving on Mormon Emigrant Trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This drive was even more different than descending into the basin from Echo Summit, where the reality of how close the South Shore came to being rubble is evident.

I was alone on this drive. Hardly any other cars were out. It was eerie. It was sad. It was almost overwhelming.

Looking west toward Lake Tahoe, so much land was ravaged by the Caldor. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I felt like I had to be there, though; to stop at times not just to take photos, but to engage as many of my senses as possible.

I kept driving. An overwhelming sense of sadness washed over me. I felt so small.

Fire. It’s so incredibly powerful.

Bridge unites neighborhoods in S. Tahoe through outdoor oasis

Bridge unites neighborhoods in S. Tahoe through outdoor oasis


A bridge crossing Trout Creek in South Lake Tahoe brings neighborhoods together, with an easy connection to Lake Tahoe Community College. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Incrementally, paved bike trails are starting to tie key sections of the South Shore of Lake Tahoe together.

Original plans were for a 9.2 mile trail to go from Meyers to Stateline, with much of it following Caltrans’ original plans for a highway through the forest. It was once known at the Greenway Bike Trail.

A major section that recently was completed is called the Dennis T. Machida Memorial Greenway. The 3.86 miles link neighborhoods to each other and to Lake Tahoe Community College.

It was near the phys ed building at LTCC that I met my friend and her dog. From there we walked south, or was it east? I’m directionally challenged. It was toward Meyers.

It wasn’t long before we were crossing an impressive expansive bridge that covers Trout Creek from Meadow Crest Drive to Martin Avenue. In late June the abundance of water made me question what body of water this was. I was disoriented because the creek was well beyond its banks. That’s what happens after a winter like last year.

Absolutely stunning.

Mount Tallac in the distance, with a full Upper Truckee River in the foreground on the 206-acre Johnson Meadow parcel. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The structure meanders like water does. The subtle curves and how low it is to the ground means it’s not obtrusive while surrounded by all this natural beauty.

Machida, who this section of the trail is named after, was the California Tahoe Conservancy’s initial executive director, having served from 1985 until he died unexpectedly in 2005 at the age of 58.

We didn’t let the end of the paved trail stop us. We proceeded to the trail that goes through the Johnson Meadow, that since 2018 has been owned by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District.

We turned around at the concrete remains of what locals call the Hospital Bridge. A large section of it came tumbling down in winter 2016-17. It was a popular connector for mountain bike riders from Barton Memorial Hospital to what could be considered the Pioneer Trail side of the Upper Truckee River.

With this no longer being private property, it’s possible the original bike path could be resurrected.

In 2008, the CTC was projecting the entire 9.2-mile trail would cost $20 million to build. It’s going to be a lot more if and when the entire route is built.

Pin It on Pinterest