Clear Creek

Partnering for Protection

Clear Creek is the only tributary to the main stem of the Carson River that flows year round, making its water very important for the entire Carson watershed.

The highlights of The Nature Conservancy's work at Clear Creek include:

  • Permanently protecting 853 acres of some of the most ecologically rich and scenic stretches along Clear Creek–via conservation easement with partners Clear Creek Tahoe–on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada's Carson. 
  • Organizing hundreds of volunteers, with the Carson Valley Trails Association and many local businesses, who donated thousands of hours to build the 10.5 mile Clear Creek Trail, which takes visitors through a portion of the protected area. Go for a hike on the Clear Creek Trail >
  • Partnering with federal, state and local agencies, as well as a private landowner, on a forest restoration project designed to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires in the forest surrounding Clear Creek, which helps protect water supplies for people and enhance wildlife habitat near Carson City.

The upper Clear Creek watershed area supports:

  • 70+ mammal species
  • 170+ bird species
  • 20+ reptile and amphibian species

Important habitats found at Clear Creek include:

  • Alder and willow riparian
  • Montane meadow
  • Jeffrey pine forest
  • Bitterbrush and sagebrush scrub
How does the Conservation Easement work?

Clear Creek Tahoe donated the conservation easement on the 853-acre parcel in the Clear Creek watershed to The Nature Conservancy, ensuring that the land remains natural open space in perpetuity.

The easement safeguards a large swath of land around the creek that will help the water remain pristine and clean. The easement parcels combine with neighboring Forest Service and Washoe Tribal land to provide a large, intact corridor of habitat that is particularly important as winter range for the area's declining mule deer population (see map).

A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on a piece of property now and in the future, while protecting the property’s ecological values.

“We are honored to have The Nature Conservancy as our conservation partner,” said Jim Taylor, Managing Partner of Clear Creek Tahoe. “We hope that this project and the work we have done to include protected open space can become a model for how to balance development and caring for the environment in other projects in the future.”

The conservation easement is adjacent to a project by Clear Creek Tahoe that includes a planned community and golf course, and is just one of the elements helping make the project more environmentally friendly. “I was expecting to see a sea of bright green when I arrived–golf courses and other artificial things, but you can’t even see the golf course from here ... this is beautiful and natural,” said Margie Evans, Clear Creek Watershed Council Coordinator, of the scenic ridgelines and open meadow protected by the easement.

Protecting important pieces of the Clear Creek watershed involves a diverse group of partners, including Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, Carson City and Douglas County, US Forest Service Carson Ranger District, Carson River Coalition and Clear Creek Watershed Council.

“We owe this great success and the protection of a crucial piece of the Clear Creek and Carson River watersheds to the work of many dedicated partners, as well as the citizens of Carson City and Douglas County who worked to see a portion of this landscape conserved,” said Kathryn Landreth, the Conservancy's former Nevada director.

Clear Creek Trail

Hikers can enjoy the natural beauty along the southern and western portions of the easement area thanks to several miles of trails (see map) in the Clear Creek designed and constructed in partnership with the Carson Valley Trails AssociationThe new trails are now open to the public.

Restoring area forests
Forested mountains serve as nature’s water storage and filtering facilities. Frequent, high-severity wildfires and subsequent post-fire flooding increasingly threaten water that serves Carson City and surrounding areas. To combat the risk of catastrophic wildfire, we're working with partners to restore forest health surrounding Clear Creek, including thinning trees on at least 800 acres. 
In addition to lowering the risk of large fires, the project is expected to improve habitat for wildlife. And, a healthier forest also improves water quality.
“Thinning our forests make them healthier and more resilient to climate change and drought," says Duane Petite, the Conservancy’s Carson River program director. “We’re excited to collaborate on a project that benefits both people and nature.”
The project is the result of many months of collaboration by 15 federal, state and local agencies, including the Nevada Division of Forestry, which helped to identify the most at-risk areas in western Nevada.