The Conservancy secured the long-term protection of key wetland, meadow and riparian habitats along a two-mile section of the Carson River by purchasing the River Fork Ranch in 2000. Located where the east and west forks of the Carson River meet near Genoa, River Fork Ranch is both a nature preserve and a working cattle operation. The ranch’s riparian corridor and patchwork of pastures, meadows and wetlands support a robust and diverse wildlife population including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, leopard frogs, monarch butterflies and mule deer.
What We're Doing
Floodplain Protection: By giving rivers room to swell beyond their banks in times of high flow, undeveloped floodplains reduce flood risk to communities downstream while allowing groundwater aquifers to recharge and natural water purification processes to function. River Fork Ranch permanently protects more than 800 acres of floodplain at the confluence of the East and West Forks of the Carson River.
Habitat Restoration: A legacy of unrestricted grazing, irrigation diversions and dredging of the river channel resulted in degraded ecological conditions including impaired alluvial function, conversion to exotic plant species and reduced riparian viability. Active restoration work is ongoing at River Fork Ranch to reverse these effects, enhance important riparian, meadow and wetland habitat and create conditions that allow for natural processes including overbank flow and channel migration.
Contractors and volunteers have created nearly 40 acres of emergent marsh, wet meadow and riparian habitat along the East Brockliss Slough and West Fork of the Carson River at River Fork Ranch. When re-vegetation efforts fully take root, the native plants will help filter pollutants, reduce bank erosion and provide important habitat for the preserve’s incredible diversity of wildlife.
In addition to our traditional restoration efforts, we are bringing conservation and art together at our River Fork Ranch Preserve in an innovative partnership with the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, for a project called The Nature of Art, to benefit nature with living watershed sculptures.
Sustainable Agriculture: Before the Conservancy purchased River Fork Ranch, the property had supported cattle for over a century. Today the Conservancy is partnering with Ranch One, Carson Valley’s historic first ranch, to ensure that this classic western ranching landscape endures. Ranch One raises all-natural grass-fed beef at River Fork Ranch using sustainable methods that meet both agricultural and conservation objectives. A rest-rotational grazing plan and exclusion of livestock from the ranch’s sensitive riparian and wetland areas protects wildlife habitat; keeping the ranch in production and selling local beef benefits the community.
Public access: The trail system at River Fork Ranch provides an unprecedented opportunity to access the Carson River, visit its wetland and wet meadow habitats, and see the Conservancy’s restoration work first-hand. Interpretive signage on the deck of the Whit Hall Interpretive Center gives visitors access to the preserve's story and demonstrates a more sustainable way of life in the Carson Valley and beyond. See a map of the trails system >