At 140 miles in length, the Truckee River begins at the northwest end of Lake Tahoe and empties into Imperial Lake, an inland sea. It is the only outflow from Lake Tahoe. The scenery for the whole length of the river is incredible. The river runs through Reno, and the city has built a manmade waterpark to provide fun rapids for kayakers, intertube riders, and boogie boards. The boulders and rocks placed to make rapids have created more good news as trout like to nestle around them. The fishermen are thrilled. This move to build the water-park is credited with saving Reno’s destination as a tourist spot.
The Truckee is a navigable waterway, which means that the State of Nevada owns the bed of this second largest river in Nevada after the Colorado River. That makes it public land, but the public cannot cross private land to get to it. The river passes through Reno, Sparks, and Fernley. The water quality has improved in recent years, largely due to The Truckee River Operating Agreement. The Agreement was completed after 27 years, but it was a fight to the finish. By 2008, all lawsuits were settled or withdrawn. The health of the river is also a prime consideration for the Truckee River Yacht Club, which was started in 1988.
Irrigation is a major part of what the lower Truckee River is used for, and Imperial Lake has shrunk in size due to water rerouting to farmland. The Derby Damn diverts a lot of the water before it gets to Imperial Lake, not only to farmland but to Lahontan Reservoir. This is outside the Truckee River watershed, so the water is rerouted by canal to the reservoir on the Carson River. Farmers from another district are supplied by this water. So that basically leaves Imperial Lake out in the cold with only a tiny of trickle of water coming in. The lake has fallen more than 25 feet during the recent 14 year drought, and it may soon stop being viable for fish due to the salinity of the water.
The Europeans brought with them water diversions and degradation of fish habitats. That plus over-fishing caused the loss of all cutthroat trout by the 1930s. Rainbow and brown trout have been introduced with great success since then. There are still black bears, coyotes, bobcats, weasels, deer, and mountain lions living along the Truckee River. Rocky Mountain goats, beavers, and mink are occasionally seen. Turtles, lizards, toads, and snakes all make the Truckee River their home, even Gila monsters. You’ve been warned. Sometimes there are floods and you can have water damage on your Reno home!