Carson River Project

Conservation to benefit people and nature

The Conservancy is working at the Carson River to protect land and water.

Whit Hall Interpretive Center

See the transformation from ranch house to interpretive center.


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The Nature Conservancy has been working on the Carson River since 2000.


What's new for the Carson River Project?
About the Carson River Project

The Carson River flows 184 miles from high elevation headwaters in California’s Carson Iceberg Wilderness through the broad floodplain of the verdant Carson Valley and past Nevada’s capitol before terminating in the Carson Sink wetlands of the Great Basin. The cold, clear headwaters sustain native species such as the endemic Paiute cutthroat trout, while the meadows, wetlands and riparian habitat down river support a rich assemblage of avian species including migratory and nesting populations of shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors. The forest and brush covered slopes surrounding the river corridor provide important winter range for mule deer and mountain lion. Most of the upper watershed lies within the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest while significant portions of the lower valley floodplains remain working landscapes owned by families with ranching traditions that date back to the late 1800’s.

The Carson River watershed supports:

  • Nearly 250 bird species including goshawks, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, white-faced ibis and tri-colored blackbirds
  • Many wildlife species including western pond turtles, leopard frogs, monarch butterflies, pine martin, mule deer, black bear and mountain lion

The Nature Conservancy has been working in the Carson River watershed since 1989 and it remains a top priority for biodiversity conservation along the eastern Sierra Nevada (see map).  Combining land protection strategies, habitat restoration projects and community outreach programs, the Conservancy is working to nurture strong community partnerships among local businesses, ranchers, schools, non-profit organizations and public agencies in order to find conservation solutions that work for people and for nature.

How We Work
  • Land protection is often accomplished by working with willing landowners to preserve their properties such as Clear Creek and Bently Ranch –Kirman Field in perpetuity through conservation easements.
  • Restoration such as at River Fork Ranch includes improving habitat, expanding and enhancing wetlands, meadows and the riparian corridor to create more natural conditions, and correcting past damages on the river - like removing dredge spoils and berms that disconnect the river from its floodplain. 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. Learn more about The Nature of Art.
  • Public Access to places like River Fork Ranch provides opportunities for people to forge a personal and lasting connection with the natural world.
  • Collaboration among the Carson River Coalition stakeholder group drives a watershed-wide, integrated approach – Floodplain by Design – to floodplain management and use that is designed to enhance flood protection, improve water quality, recharge aquifers, sustain agriculture and enrich wildlife habitat. 
Where We Work

River Fork Ranch: an 805-acre working cattle ranch and nature preserve at the biologically-diverse transition zone of the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada ecoregions owned by the Conservancy and home to the Whit Hall Interpretive Center, a community resource and hub for the preserve's trails.

Bently Ranch – Kirman Field: a 1027-acre property, protected through a conservation easement with the Bently family in 2005, that demonstrates that land protection, public access, and ranching can be compatible activities.

Clear Creek: 853 acres of forest and montane meadow along the only perennial tributary to the Carson River protected in 2008 with the help of partner Clear Creek Tahoe, LLC.


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