A new bridge now spans the Truckee River at the historic McCarran Ranch, providing a key link in future recreation plans for the area.
The 110-foot-long bridge was lowered into place by a crane on Tuesday, replacing a crumbling and dangerous structure that was torn down in early October.
It's the latest change to come to the ranch where one of Nevada's iconic figures, U.S. Sen. Patrick McCarran, was raised on the banks of the Truckee River.
The ranch, purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 2002, was the first of four major river restoration projects along the lower Truckee. Cottonwoods, willows and other native vegetation are now flourishing at a place where a sea of invading weeds used to dominate. Fish and wildlife love the place.
"The vegetation is coming in real thick. The birds, the fish, the mammals are all coming back," said Patti Bakker, Truckee River project manager for the conservancy.
Come next spring, the McCarran Ranch will be opened for public recreation. It's expected to become a prime destination for hikers, bikers, anglers and nature lovers.
The bridge is critical because public access on the east side of the McCarran Ranch will be on the south side of the river. To the west, access will be on the river's north side.
"It's critical. There has to be a crossing of the river," Bakker said. "The connectivity piece of this is pretty huge."
Watching the bridge's installation was Janet Phillips, president of Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. That ambitious project could ultimately have a bikeway stretch the entire 116-mile length of the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake.
The bridge provides a needed river crossing, Phillips said. When opened to the public, the McCarran Ranch will be a center point in a 9-mile stretch of restored river between the Mustang Ranch to the west and 102 Ranch to the east.
"With this gap closed, it's nine miles of continuous trail," Phillips said. "It will be a really nice place to ride along the Truckee River in a rural setting."
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.