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
An early summer midweek morning is a great time to ride your bike from Tahoe City to Truckee, and then, along the Truckee Legacy Trail to Glenshire. The roaring Truckee River is your companion the entire route, the temperatures are not too hot, but warm enough to ride in just a bike jersey and shorts, and the traffic has not yet reached it’s mid July craziness.
If you start at the 64 Acres Parking lot in Tahoe City the trip to the viewpoint at the edge of Glenshire is 38.2 miles round trip. Following the Truckee River it’s mostly downhill on the way to Glenshire, with a drop of about 300 feet. The trip back, however, usually combines both a slight incline with a headwind. On June 2nd it took me one hour and five minutes to ride to the Glenshire viewpoint, and one hour and twenty five minutes to ride back to my car.
Heading out from the 64 Acres Parking lot, I prefer to ride along the bike trail. You are right next to the river, and quite a big and beautiful river it is these days. Before heading out on your ride, however, be sure and check the latest figures on water being released at the dam above Fanny Bridge, as it can fluctuate significantly with no warning. The past week or so it has been hovering around 1000 cubic feet per second (cfs). That is fast, but low enough to not flood the bike trail. Even up to 1300 cfs, the trail will remain mostly dry except for a few short spots. But in the past month the river has gone up to 2000 cfs briefly, and hovered in the 1600 range for a longer period, both of which flood the heck out of the bike trail. If the river is impassable, or if it is a weekend and the bike trail traffic gets a bit heavy with folks who are not paying attention, you can always ride on the road, which has a good sized shoulder for riding.
To get the latest Truckee River release information go here:
Once you reach Squaw Valley, a wide bike lane is available along Highway 89. Eight miles later, take a right turn onto West River Street in Truckee, where you face the sketchiest mile of the route. Cars do go fairly slow, but the road is narrower then I would prefer. In Downtown Truckee, somehow get across the busy intersection of Brockway and West River Street to a mile of easy riding on the lightly used East River Street.
Near the end of East River, take the bike bridge across the Truckee River to meet the Truckee Legacy Trail, where you turn left. The Legacy Trail is wide, follows the Truckee River, and is a joy to ride…with one caveat. You will not be alone, and many of your fellow trail goers are dog walkers whose dogs are often not on leash. Be careful out there. The crowds do disperse, however, as you pull further away from downtown Truckee. Just after crossing a small creek, you race up a set of switchbacks to climb through a huge pile of talus to the end of the trail, and a beautiful viewpoint of both the Truckee River and town of Truckee.
By Tim Hauserman
On May 1st, I sat along the crystal clear, calm as glass edge of Lake Tahoe, and began to have visions of paddleboarding or kayaking. It’s been a long, hard winter, and 60 degrees felt pretty dang warm. There was just a boat or two lazily floating offshore, and the snow capped peaks in the background made the image even more blissful. The problem was that there is still four feet of snow between me and my watercraft in my basement.
A few days later after a bike ride in Reno that topped out at 75 degrees, I headed to the beaches of Tahoe’s east shore. There were just a few folks making their way down to the rocky shoreline, and the lake was crystal clear and glassy smooth. I immersed myself very briefly in her cleansing water. The problem was that the water temperature was 46 degrees. Fortunately the warmth of the day quickly brought me back to life as I sat on a smooth piece of granite.
Such is the life of Tahoe in May. A mixed bag of spectacularly beautiful days and a few snow storms thrown in. The winter crowds for the most part are gone, and the summer visitors are still focusing on going to school and improving their golf game in the Bay Area, so May is a good time to find peaceful meditation at Tahoe. Many of the places where you would like to play, however, are still under multiple feet of snow. It takes a relaxed attitude and a bit of ingenuity to truly enjoy Tahoe this May. Here are three ideas:
Take a stroll around Tahoe City. Wander through the local shops, grab some grub, then find yourself down at the lake shore where the lake is high and the views are magnificent. Don’t forget to check out the Lake Tahoe Dam, where the river is roaring as the water master struggles to get rid of all that snow runoff pouring into Lake Tahoe. Then keep walking along the path downstream to check out the river (be sure and check the water flow monitor on the back of the dam first, if it is above 1300 cfs, the trail may be flooded).
Get out on the road bike. The dirt for mountain biking will take awhile before making an appearance, but the roads are dry and while a bit sandy, not too busy. Here are a few local road bike favorites: Squaw Valley to Truckee on Highway 89 and then via the Legacy Trail along the Truckee River to Glenshire; The Triangle: Tahoe City to Truckee to Kings Beach and back to Tahoe City; and finally you can take a drive to Sierra Valley, a bit of road biking heaven twenty five miles north of Truckee. Perhaps use it as warm up ride for the Tour de Manure metric century ride which leaves from Sierraville on June 17th. tourdemanure.org
If you get a calm day, and you can get your board out, take a paddle across Tahoe’s still surface, but don’t fall in. Unless you are truly daring, and want to test how fast you can get in and out of water.
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.
By Tim Hauserman
While walking across that rocky piece of ground formerly known as the Truckee River above the Lake Tahoe dam, I saw the impossibly bright red-orange-yellow-green-purple colors of a rainbow touch the heads of a couple in the distance. Like all rainbows, it was a brief moment of bliss, a reminder of the wonder of nature. Fortunately, it was not a unique sighting during this wonderful fall of the rainbows.
This fall rainbows have appeared and reappeared above the lake on a regular basis, reminding us what we already know, that Lake Tahoe really is the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow. Or I’ve seen the rainbows fly through the sky to briefly explode in color above the white firs and Jeffrey pines of the ridge above the Truckee River. Wherever we see them, that harmless blaze of color always brings a smile. A moment of quiet jubilation.
Perhaps the joy of a rainbow comes from the fact that they are a bridge between nature’s two most important elements. The rainbows display of colors come just at the moment when the precious moisture which brings us life passes the torch to the lovely sunshine that keeps us warm and growing. Rainbows are a celebration of the power of water and sun.
What also make rainbow’s a joy is that they are not something you can put off until you’re song is finished or you have sent the email. Like a shooting star, a lunar eclipse, or the brief splash of purples and oranges that is our reward for getting up and looking outside in the morning, it is a bit of natural wonder that is here, then gone. Rainbows remind us that we regularly need to stop what we are doing, and appreciate what a marvelous little miracle it is that we get to live and breath on this amazing planet. They are another knock on the head to enjoy the show while it lasts.
While writing this story I saw my Truckee friend Sara Zimmerman’s cartoon. It hit the nail on the head so hard I felt for sure she was inside my brain somewhere. Go check out her other cartoons and books while you are at it. Good stuff.
Truckee River Stops Running…so take a look around.
By Tim Hauserman
Today, I walked across the mighty Truckee River and didn’t even get my feet wet. I know, I know. I’m pretty special. Or it could be that the two years of drought have done such a number on the Lake Tahoe water supply, that the river has diminished down to just a bit of a trickle. Which would explain the sign behind the dam that says the river is now flowing at 0 cfs (cubic feet per second). Yikes!
Fortunately for the folks in Reno, which depend upon the Truckee River for their water supply, a number of other reservoirs and streams between Tahoe City and Reno are still releasing water into the river. But here where it all begins in Tahoe City, floating joyfully in my favorite swimming hole a few hundred yards downstream from the dam is not an option until at least next spring. What is an option is walking along the bed of the river or the much larger then normal lakeshore, and seeing what you cannot normally see when the water is where it is supposed to be.
Taking a stroll along the Truckee River bed is quite surreal. Here you are high and dry in a place that normally contains several feet of swiftly moving water. In several places, both above and below the dam you will see wood posts, part of piers that once reached out from the shore.
You do, however, need to be careful out there. While I was walking towards the dam, I waved to some friends enjoying lunch on the back deck of the Front Street Station. Normally this deck overlooks the river, but now it only provides a view of the free entertainment I was about to provide. Immediately after waving I stepped on a log and discovered that it was the world’s slipperiest object. I believe my foot remained in contact with the log for a half a second before I went flying. Hopefully the crowd was entertained. My advice: Don’t step on slippery logs.
Along the lakeshore you will also find an enormous beach, the remnants of long lost piers, pipes that are usually underwater and immense fields of lupine. Enjoy it all while you can, because hopefully, after the monster winter we are going to have, all that bare land will disappear under water once again.
The Last Float of the Year
By Tim Hauserman
The Truckee River’s clear running water is perfect for a swim, a float or just to quietly sit next to and enjoy. A few years ago, I moved from my house in Ward Canyon to within a stone’s throw of the Truckee. I quickly discovered the advantages of living near the river. While it might not give you the awe inspiring beauty of Lake Tahoe, it’s a pleasantly beautiful place to swim (and always a bit warmer then the lake).
Floating the Truckee River is of course another wonderful way to experience the river. When the water is at Goldilocks level the river is packed full of happy rafters. But as the river level dropped this summer, the raft companies could no longer put rafts into the water, and just a few private rafters plied the waters.
While my first two trips down the river this year were amongst the crowds, on my last trip a few days ago, I confronted dramatically different conditions. The water level was low, and we encountered a grand total of zero other floaters on our journey. I’d spent the previous 10 days peddling my new children’s book, Gertrude’s Tahoe Adventures in Time with the illustrator, Jess Bechtelheimer, who lives in Kansas. We drove all over the place doing signings and introducing folks to the book, but I thought it was also important to give Jess a chance to experience what Tahoe has to offer. We canoed past osprey nests at Bliss State Park, kayaked from Hurricane Bay to Sunnyside, and enjoyed a family sunset BBQ at Tahoe Park Beach. But what trip to Tahoe would be complete without a float down the Truckee? We couldn’t let a shortage of water get in the way, right?
We started out at 64 Acres and began to float. Very slowly. How slowly? Visualize the slowest walker you know…yeah, we were slower then that. But the float is relaxing and the ducks all stopped by to say hi. Further downstream, we ran into some very shallow and rocky sections, where we discovered that having the tubes tied together helped when one of us was hopelessly marooned on a rock…which happened a lot. If one craft was still moving along in the paltry current, the other could slowly drag the other raft over the rock.
Two hours after our entrance at 64 Acres, we paddled over to the bike trail and discovered that we had covered about 1.5 miles in 2 hours. Needless to say, it was much faster walking back then floating down. But we’d floated the Truckee River, which is always a good thing to do.
Be careful out there…
A few rules for bike riding.
By Tim Hauserman
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Long, warm days that call us to get outside and hike, bike, paddle and swim. Or perhaps your preferred method of enjoyment is a bit of savasana on the beach before a quiet snooze? Of course, the fact that it is so awesome in Tahoe means we will not have the place to ourselves in July and August, especially on the bike trails, so here are a few suggestions on what to do to keep safe:
Are you a biker on the bike trail?
Be careful out there. The Truckee River bike trail especially can be an obstacle course requiring swift maneuvering to avoid slow moving bikes, fast moving bikes, runners, walkers, little tykes enjoying life on some other planet, and of course the always dangerous rafters hell bent for the restrooms. Please ride on the right. Ride single file. Be alert for obstacles that quickly change direction. When passing say, “On your left” loud enough for someone to hear you, but not so loud as to scare them. Want to avoid the heaviest traffic? Go early in the morning or after five in the evening.
Are you a walker or runner on the bike trail?
The bike lane is like a road for bicycles, treat it accordingly. Just like a road, don’t just stand in the middle of it not paying attention. Walk on the left so that riders on the right can see you. Only take up one lane so that riders can go around you. If you are walking with children, be sure to keep them in one lane as well and explain to them that bikes will be on the trail and that they come by fast.
Are you a driver on the road wondering what to do about them dang riders?
Perhaps you would prefer that there were no bikes on the road, but sorry, they have a right to be there. Please be careful. DONT TEXT OR USE YOUR CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING. The people you may kill are folks with kids and parents who love them. The law says that you must give riders at least 3 feet of buffer zone when you pass. This is because roads can have rough surfaces and riders usually cannot follow a straight line. Sometimes the bike lane, if there is one, is either very sandy or full of potholes and poorly designed drainage grates. So slow down, and give them lots of room when passing. When parked parallel along the road, say in Tahoe City, look in your side view mirror before pulling out into traffic. There may be a bike there, and it is probably going faster then you think.
Are you a rider on the road?
In the summer I spend perhaps more time on my bike then in a car…but still, I get mad at bicyclists. Yes, we have a right to be on the road and yes, there are some bad actors out there behind the wheel, but bikers: Stay as far as you can to the right. Ride single file! Follow the traffic laws. Wear a helmet. Take the freaking buds out of your ears. Oh, and if you are that guy: You know the one riding the wrong way, no helmet on, buds in, checking his cell phone…please stop. You are not in Isla Vista anymore. It ain’t safe and you are pissing off the drivers who are on the same road as we are.
And remember the rule: Lead, follow or get out of the way.
By Tim Hauserman
Rafting the Truckee River has been a summertime must do for people visiting Tahoe for over 35 years. The four mile journey to the River Ranch is always a good time whether you are relaxing through a gentle float, attempting to soak some complete stranger with the latest water shooting device, or hanging out in your swimming attire with a large group of fellow partiers at one of the gathering spots.
This year the rafting companies began putting the rafts in the water over the Memorial Day weekend. The surprisingly good news is that even with the poor excuse for a winter we just had, there should be rafting for a portion of the summer. But if you’re making plans for a rafting trip in the middle of August, you might want to step it up a bit. Like a lot of things in life, when it comes to rafting this summer. If you wait too long, it will be gone.
Jennifer Courcier, one of the owners of Truckee River Rafting, says “the rafting levels are great right now and should be through mid July.” Water release is measured in cubic feet per second (cfs). The best release levels for rafting is between 200-350 cfs. This week the level is about 220, and hopefully the flow will stay in a nice range and even increase a bit between now and mid-July. After that the levels will start to slowly drop every day, as the level of the natural rim of the lake approaches. While Courcier is hopeful that the rafting will continue into August, we are all beholden to both the whims of nature (how fast the water in the lake evaporates) and the complicated rules that decide how much the Watermaster must release in order to satisfy all of the thirsty users downstream. In other words, just do it. Soon.
For the latest information on current rafting conditions, or to make a reservation, contact Truckee River Rafting at 583-1111 or go to www.truckeeriverrafting.com