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The McCarran Ranch was the Conservancy’s first restoration project on the lower Truckee River, and the work done there has become a model for how to fix the Truckee. As the natural communities recover at McCarran Ranch, it is becoming a unique destination in northern Nevada – a place of natural beauty and diversity for wildlife and people alike.
The Restoration Program
At McCarran Ranch, like along much of the Lower Truckee River, decades of damage, including severe channel incision due to straightening the river's channel as part of a 1960's flood control project, caused the groundwater to drop beyond the reach of riverside vegetation resulting in a loss of approximately 90% of the riparian forest and as much as 70% of bird species.
The goal of restoration on the lower river is to re-create a functioning ecosystem. A relatively small-scale pilot project at McCarran Ranch completed in 2003 allowed the Conservancy to test its restoration methods and practices. Based on the success of that work, large-scale restoration began at McCarran Ranch in 2006.
Restoration addresses the very foundation of the ecosystem by:
- Creating in-river habitat – riffles and pools – for fish and insects they and other animals feed on
- Rebuilding a meandering channel that allows the river to flow in a more natural pattern
- Reconnecting the river to its floodplain, potentially reducing flood damage in other, more developed areas
- Lowering the floodplain, slightly raising the river’s bottom, and narrowing its width to re-create conditions that can support native vegetation
- Restoring a native plant community that will help improve water quality by keeping the water cooler and filtering out excess nutrients
The restoration model developed at McCarran Ranch has shown success in attracting birds and fish and in supporting thriving native plant communities. In addition, it has been implemented at four other sites on the lower river: 102 Ranch, Lockwood, Mustang Ranch, and the Tracy Reach. An important part of restoration includes revegetation and maintenance. You can help by volunteering.
The Nature Conservancy is proud to provide public access at the McCarran Ranch Preserve, a stretch of river that has not been available to the public for more than a century. Recreational opportunities include hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and canoeing. The preserve is complete with site-specific educational exhibits, an outdoor amphitheater that is a center for public events, and a trail system that guides visitors through the heart of the restoration area — past the new meandering channel and a series of wetlands that support an abundance of wildlife.
The McCarran Ranch Preserve is open from dawn until dusk. Click on the visit tab for more details. Download a Truckee River trails map.
The Truckee's future lies with the people who depend on it. The Nature Conservancy launched an education and outreach program in 2008 to reconnect the community with the river and share the importance of conservation for our well-being. In the past two years, the education program has reached nearly 1,000 local students. The program highlights the need for taking care of our precious resources, while introducing students to wetlands, riparian habitats, and restoration. If you're interested in getting involved with our educational program as a participating group or as a volunteer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Volunteers play an important role in the ongoing work at McCarran Ranch, as well as other sites on the Truckee River and across the state. If you're interested in joining our committed team of volunteers and being a part of this exciting work, visit our volunteer page.
Take a virtual Google Earth tour of our lower Truckee River project.
The McCarran Ranch Preserve is open to the public throughout the year from dawn until dusk.
Here, the river and its floodplain have been reconnected and the river forest has been replanted. The result is that hundreds of birds (some species not seen for decades) and other wildlife are returning to the Truckee River.
As the natural communities recover at The Nature Conservancy’s McCarran Ranch Preserve and other locations, they are becoming a unique destination in Northern Nevada – a place of natural beauty and diversity for animals and people alike.
Hiking, fishing, bicycling, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and more.
Lighting of Fires or use of fireworks
Hunting or discharge of firearms
Dumping of Waste
Removal of plants or animals
Research projects without prior approval from The Nature Conservancy
Organized events or commercial use without prior approval from The Nature Conservancy
The McCarran Ranch Preserve is open from dawn until dusk.
Dogs are allowed but must be kept on leash. Please pick up after your pet.
As there are no drinking water sources at the Preserve, please bring your own water.
The McCarran Ranch Preserve is located approximately 15 minutes from Reno, NV.
Take I-80 East from Reno to the Patrick exit (#28). Follow Waltham Way south across the Truckee River. Turn right at intersection and then right again onto Wild Horse Canyon Drive. Access road to trailhead will be on your right after approximately 1/4 mile.