Places We Protect

McCarran Ranch Preserve


Flyfishing at McCarran Ranch Preserve on the Truckee River near Reno, NV
Flyfishing McCarran Ranch Flyfishing at McCarran Ranch Preserve on the Truckee River near Reno, NV © Tim Torell

Visit McCarran Ranch Preserve to see how we're transforming the Truckee River.



The McCarran Ranch Preserve 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 Preserve, 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 Preserve 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 Preserve in 2006.

Restoration addresses the very foundation of the ecosystem by:

  • Creating in-river habitat—riffles and pools—for trout and other 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 Preserve 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. 


The Truckee's future lies with the people who depend on it.  The Nature Conservancy's education and outreach program was launched in 2008 to reconnect the community with the river and share the importance of conservation for our well-being.  Working with partners, we're able to connect with local students each year, highlighting 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 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, contact our Volunteer Coordinator Martin Swinehart at 775-224-9158 or



Some sections of trail may be inaccessible due to flooding and associated damage.


McCarran Ranch is open from dawn 'til dusk. 


Fishing, hiking, trails, wildlife viewing and more!

Explore our work in this region

The following are prohibited at McCarran Ranch:

  • Camping
  • Lighting of Fires or use of fireworks
  • Horses
  • 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

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.

Note that some sections of trail may be inaccessible due to flooding and associated damage through July 1, 2019.

Public Access

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. See a map of the trails.

Truckee Virtual Tour Take a virtual Google Earth tour of our lower Truckee River project.