by Tim Hauserman

Nothing like a Saturday afternoon ride along the Truckee River to remind me to pass on a few tips about rafting or riding on the Truckee River.

Rafting the Truckee

The big winter we just had led to a topsy turfy summer for rafting on the Truckee River. The Goldilocks zone for rafting is between 200-400 cubic feet per second (cfs) released from the dam at Fanny Bridge. During much of the spring the dam was releasing more than 1000 cfs, and at times it was over 1400 cfs, which flooded the bike trail along the river. Once the lake reached it’s maximum and there was not the need to open the gates the Watermaster started releasing more water downstream from the full Boca and Stampede Reservoirs, and cut back the releases from Lake Tahoe to about 75 cubic feet per second…not enough to raft.

Today, I saw a lot of private rafts in the water. Unfortunately, I was seeing rafts in the water being pulled by people who were dragging them over rocks instead of floating. There are two ways to find out when is a good time to raft the Truckee. First, if the rafting companies are open and floating down the Upper Truckee, there is the right amount of water being released (they are not operating now), and second, you can go to the USGS Link that shows how much water is being released.

Look for somewhere in the 200-400 cfs range.

Riding along the Truckee

The five mile bike trail from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley is one of the prettiest trails anywhere, traveling next to the river the whole way. It’s a narrow trail, and as you can imagine, a popular place. Here are a few tips to both keep you safe and to literally avoid running into others on the trail:

Remember a bike trail is like a road, and just like on a road, if you stand in the middle of it and don’t pay attention, you may get run over.

Ride on the right, walk on the left (so that the walkers can see you coming).

If riding, say, “On your left” as you pass people on the left.

If walking, be prepared for fast moving bikes, so you don’t freak out when you hear someone say “On your left”

Take up just one side of the trail. If you are a group of four people, please don’t walk or ride four abreast, this makes it impossible for a fast moving bike to get around you. Remember a bike trail is like a road, and like a road, you are only allowed one lane.

Watch out for: children and adults who are oblivious to other users and rafters coming off the river without looking.


By Tim Hauserman

This past winter we experienced near record amounts of snow at Lake Tahoe, with a good dousing of rain thrown in. Tahoe’s lake level is now only a bit more than a foot below the legal limit of the lake, with a lot of snow still in the mountains. So what does the water master who controls how much water is released from Lake Tahoe into the Truckee River do? Let a lot of water out.

A month ago I reported in this blog that the dam was releasing 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) into the Truckee River. To put that number in perspective. It’s about twice as much water as the folks who run the rafting companies see as prime for running the river between Tahoe City and the River Ranch. Much higher than that and folks start bumping their heads on bridges.

But 700 cfs was just the beginning. The level was raised to 1300, than up to 1600 cubic feet per second last week. This brought the water level to just below the bridges, and began to flood sections of the Truckee River bike trail between Tahoe City and Squaw Valley. And this came just a few days after the Tahoe City Public Utility District plowed the trail through deep snow to give Tahoe folks visions of riding along the river.

In the interest of research, I decided to take my mountain bike down to the river to see how bad the flooding was. It took me about a mile and a half of riding to get to the first flooded section. This one was about 100 yards long through about six inch deep water. It was like being in a water aerobics class as I slowly made my way through all that water. The good news is that the water is crystal clear, and as I was soon to find out: Cold.

Just about a half mile further I met the next wet section. This one was longer and twice as deep. I got about 100 yards in before the water reached above my pedals, and I had to stop and turn around. Knee deep in water that was snow a few hours ago is pretty dang cold.

The next day, April 26th they raised the level to 2000 cfs. The river is now kissing the foundations of the River Grill just below Fanny Bridge and folks are being advised to keep their distance from the river (although a few highly trained kayakers can’t resist it). It will most likely stay this high for quite awhile since in the high Sierra there is still multiple feet of snow yet to melt.