McCarran Ranch Preserve

A Healthy River for Wildlife and People

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Get all the details on what to do and what not to do. View All

Plan Your Visit

Hours of operation and a special note to pet owners. View All

Get Directions

If you're looking for parks or natural places to visit near Reno, add McCarran Ranch Preserve to your list!

  • Enjoy fishing, hiking, trails, wildlife viewing and more
  • Explore the exciting watershed sculptures that are restoring the river as part of The Nature of Art
  • Learn about how our conservation efforts are bringing back the Truckee River
  • Find out how you can get connected by becoming a volunteer >>

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.

You can make a difference by supporting our work. Donate now >>

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.

The McCarran Ranch Preserve is open from dawn until dusk. Click on the visit tab for more details. Download a Truckee River trails map.

**Please note: After this year's floods, the trails at McCarran Ranch have dried out and are open to hiking. However, due to rock and silt deposition on some sections of the trail, the trail surface is not currently conducive to biking. These sections will be repaired this fall and winter.** 


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, visit our volunteer page


Virtual Tour of the Lower Truckee River

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

Hiking, fishing, bicycling, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and more. 

**Please note: After this year's floods, the trails at McCarran Ranch have dried out and are open to hiking. However, due to rock and silt deposition on some sections of the trail, the trail surface is not currently conducive to biking. These sections will be repaired this fall and winter.**

Please No:


Lighting of Fires or use of fireworks


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

The McCarran Ranch Preserve is open from dawn until dusk.

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.


The McCarran Ranch Preserve is located approximately 15 minutes from Reno, NV.

Directions to the McCarran Ranch Preserve Trailhead: Take I-80 East from Reno to the Patrick exit (#28). Follow Waltham Way south across the Truckee River. Turn right at intersection and then right again onto Wild Horse Canyon Drive. Access road to trailhead will be on your right after approximately 1/4 mile.


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

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Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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