Restoring the Truckee River
See our work to revitalize the river ecosystem in action.
People and Nature
The story of river restoration told through the lenses of photography students.
“The Nature Conservancy is the best thing to happen to the Truckee River since trout!”
- Andy Burk, Reno Fly Shop
The Nature Conservancy is leading the restoration of the lower Truckee River, and is currently nine years into a nine-mile, $25 million restoration project to revitalize the river and its ecosystem. The work is taking the damaged and degraded river system and reshaping it into a sanctuary for birds and wildlife, as well as a vital resource to the community.
Once a thriving, wild waterway with hundreds of bird species and 40-pound Lahontan cutthroat trout, the Truckee had been highly degraded over the past century. The lower river had lost approximately 90 percent of its forest and as much as 70 percent of its bird population from 1900 levels. The native fish had nearly disappeared.
The Nature Conservancy took on the task of bringing back the Truckee River - for people and for nature. To see the beauty of the restored areas yourself, be sure to visit the McCarran Ranch Preserve. Click here for details.
Rebuilding a River
Restoration is the process of putting back the natural processes that a healthy river needs to function (watch the work in action). For the Truckee, that means a team of specialists and heavy equipment moving huge amounts of dirt and rock to:
- Build new meanders to give the river a natural shape and reconnect it to the floodplain
- Create in-stream riffles to provide habitat for native fish
- Excavate wetlands along the river banks to provide habitat for birds, frogs, and other wildlife
- Replace invasive weeds with thriving native plants
The restoration work is not just good for the plants and animals that rely on the Truckee. It provides amazing benefits to the people who use the river as well, including:
- Water quality improvement as wetlands and native plants filter nutrients from the water
- Flood Attenuation as floodwaters spread out during high flows without doing damage elsewhere
- Open space and recreation for kayakers, hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, and more
- Educational opportunities for local students and recreational users
So far, four properties have been restored — McCarran Ranch, Lockwood, 102 Ranch, and Mustang Ranch — and a fifth is underway on the Tracy Reach. (View a map). In total, the restoration work includes:
- Nearly 9 river miles
- 19 new wetlands
- 13 new river meanders
- 31 in-stream riffles
- Approximately 400 acres of revegetation
The restoration efforts completed to date are showing incredible results. Birds including the willow flycatcher and the western bluebird have been spotted at restored areas after being absent for several decades. Trout and other native fish are using the restored river channels according to surveys by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Tall whitetop, a tough invasive weed prevalent on the Truckee, has been reduced by about 95% in the first areas restored and has been significantly reduced throughout the restoration sites. (Watch the time-lapse video of the transformation.)
Our partners include:
City of Reno, City of Sparks, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Nevada Division of State Lands, Nevada Division of Water Resources, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Regional Water Planning Commission, Senator Harry Reid, Storey County, Truckee Meadows Flood Management Project, Washoe County, United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Bureau of Land Management, United States Bureau of Reclamation, United States Fish and Wildlife Service.