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Independence Lake's beauty and rustic nature are matched only by the amazing biodiversity that it supports. Independence Lake is home to one of only two wild, self-sustaining lake populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout in the world - a fish that has been lost from 99% of its historic range. Independence Lake also plays an important role in providing clean drinking water to western Nevada.
Supporting Fish, Wildlife, and People
In addition to the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Independence Lake hosts populations of six other native Lahontan fishes that have lived here since glaciers disappeared some 10,000 years ago. Because of its pristine nature and intact ecosystem, Independence Lake has become a unique refuge for rare fish.
The surrounding pine forest is home to black bear, mountain lion, and mule deer. Bald eagles and osprey can be spotted from the shorelines, hunting fish. The region is also home to rare species like the willow flycatcher, mountain yellow-legged frog, and Sierra Nevada mountain beaver.
Independence Lake also plays an important role in supporting human communities. As a part of the Truckee River watershed, the lake is a crucial part of the system that supplies clean drinking water to northern Nevada, including Reno and Sparks.
Independence Lake at Risk
The pristine status of Independence Lake still faces threats. If aquatic invasive species such as quagga mussels, New Zealand mud snails, and Eurasian water-milfoil find their way to Independence Lake, they could severely disrupt recreation, the lake's healthy ecosystem, and the delivery of clean drinking water. In addition, these invasives could affect the lake's unique assemblage of native fish. Aquatic invasive species can clog water pipes and valves; they can cover beaches with sharp shells; and they can fill calm waters with thick mats of smelly aquatic plants. If we are to enjoy Independence Lake's unspoiled beauty in the future, it is critical that we keep out these unwanted species.
Boat movement between lakes has been identified as the primary means for these aquatic invaders to get established in previously unaffected lakes. Also, without proper management, the forest surrounding Independence Lake is at risk of catastrophic wildfire which would destroy habitat and cause serious erosion into the lake and stream.
The Vision for Independence Lake
The Nature Conservancy acquired property around Independence Lake in late April 2010, and now we are working with partners to:
- Preserve critical habitat for native fish and wildlife
- Reduce the risk of introduction of aquatic invasive plants and animals
- Implement forest management strategies to decrease the risk of wildfire
- Allow visitors to enjoy the lake in ways that are compatible with the conservation of this precious resource
Public Access and Use
The Independence Lake Preserve is open year-round for walk-in day-use. Preserve staff are on-site daily from June through October and irregularly the remainder of the year. Watercraft are available for use on Independence Lake from June through October. No motorized or non-motorized watercraft from outside the Preserve are permitted. The Truckee Donner Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy jointly manage the property.
Please click on the “Visit” tab for further information on public access and recreation.
Independence Lake is a priority for the Northern Sierra Partnership, an alliance dedicated to cooperative action that will conserve the lands and waters of the Northern Sierra, and enhance its communities and local economies, for future generations.
The Nature Conservancy will continue to manage Independence Lake with the help of partners like the Truckee Donner Land Trust, who will jointly provide for public access and recreation at Independence Lake. The lake and forests will be managed to sustain fish and wildlife and to provide a continuing supply of clean water to communities downstream.
Other partners include:
- Bella Vista Foundation
- California Department of Fish and Game
- California Natural Resources Agency
- California Trout
- California Wildlife Conservation Board
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- National Forest Foundation
- NV Energy
- David and Lucile Packard Foundation
- Sierra Business Council
- Sierra Nevada Conservancy
- Trout Unlimited
- Truckee Donner Land Trust
- Truckee Meadows Water Authority
- Truckee River Fund of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada
- Truckee River Watershed Council
- U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Forest Service
- U.S. Geological Survey
- U.S. Senator Harry Reid
See how our forest thinning at Independence Lake Preserve is making a difference.
KVIE's Rob on the Road visits Independence Lake and talks with Conservancy scientists about our work there.
Welcome to the visitor information page for the Independence Lake Preserve.
The Independence Lake Preserve is open year-round for walk-in day-use. Preserve staff are on-site daily from June through October and irregularly the remainder of the year. Watercraft are available for use on Independence Lake from June through October on a first-come, first-served basis at no charge. Donations are appreciated. No motorized or non-motorized watercraft from outside the Preserve are permitted.
The following are NOT permitted at the Independence Lake Preserve:
- Motorized vehicles of any kind, except as authorized
- Hunting or discharge of firearms
- Boats and other watercraft (all watercraft provided on-site)
- Felt-soled waders or bait
- Horseback riding
- Dogs not on leashes
- Firewood cutting
- Removal of plants, animals, artifacts or rocks
Hiking, fishing, motor-boating, kayaking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and more.
Pets must be leashed to enjoy Independence Lake. Please pick up after your pet.
All footgear you plan to use in the lake must be washed at our wash station before you enter the lake. No felt-soled waders are permitted.
Information on Boats and Watercraft:
All watercraft available to the public at no charge will be part of an “in-basin” fleet that The Nature Conservancy has purchased strictly for use on Independence Lake. As watercraft are one of the primary ways aquatic invasive species are introduced into waterways, providing a strictly in-basin fleet gives the public watercraft recreation options while drastically reducing this risk. No boats, float tubes or paddlecraft from outside the Preserve are permitted except as authorized.
Non-motorized watercraft are available throughout the summer season beginning Memorial Day weekend. Weeks where motor boats are available are as follows: May 25 - May 31, June 8 - June 14, June 22 - June 28, July 6 - July 12, July 20 - July 26, August 3 - August 9, August 17 - August 23, August 31 - September 6, September 14 - September 20, September 28 - October 4, October 12 - October 18.
In-basin watercraft must be maintained annually, therefore, donations are appreciated.
· Types of watercraft available:
o 3 14-ft aluminum boats with 9.9 hp outboard motors
o 8 kayaks – 6 single sit-on-top and 2 tandem sit-on-top kayaks
o 3 pontoon float tubes
· First come, first served – no reservations
Getting to Independence Lake from Interstate-80/Truckee, CA:
- Exit I-80 to Route 89 North - Sierraville.
- Travel approximately 15 miles North on Highway 89 to Independence Lake/Webber Lake/Jackson Meadow Reservoir turn-off.
- Turn Left/West off of Route 89 toward Independence Lake/Webber Lake/Jackson Meadow Reservoir.
- Stay on paved road for 1.5 miles. Turn Left/South at sign for “Independence Lake – 5 miles.”
- Continue approximately 5 miles to Independence Lake. The road becomes a rough dirt road. High clearance vehicle advised. After roughly 2 miles you reach a fork in the road and a sign for “Independence Lake - 3 miles.” Take the RIGHT fork of the road. After approx. ½ mile there is another fork, follow the LEFT fork across a stream. If you do not drive across a stream soon after taking this left fork, you have made a wrong turn. Continue along this road going roughly south.
- Follow the directional signs to the parking area.