Independence Lake is one of the most pristine alpine lakes west of the Rockies. The lake and surrounding alpine forests offer exceptional recreation, including hiking, fishing, kayaking and bird watching in the beautiful Sierra Nevada.
About Independence Lake Preserve
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 by acting as storage for water needed during drought.
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 seen from the shorelines, hunting fish. A wolverine has also been spotted near the lake. 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—particularly during drought.
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.
We have also been working to thin the forest and reintroduce low-intensity fire safely through controlled burning around the lake to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, which destroys habitat and can cause serious erosion into the lake and stream, compromising water quality.
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 and subsequent erosion into the lake
- Allow visitors to enjoy the lake in ways that are compatible with the conservation of this precious resource
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 Wildlife
- California Natural Resources Agency
- California Trout
- California Wildlife Conservation Board
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- National Forest Foundation
- Northern Sierra Partnership
- 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