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Map of the Truckee River drainage basin
The Truckee River is a river, long in northern Californiamarker and northern Nevadamarker in the United Statesmarker. It drains part of the high Sierra Nevada, emptying into Pyramid Lakemarker in the Great Basin. It is the sole outlet of Lake Tahoemarker. Its waters are an important source of irrigation along its valley and adjacent valleys. The water is quite clear.


The river, here alternatively known as the Upper Truckee River, originates from the mountains south of Lake Tahoemarker, flowing into the lake at its south end before issuing once more from the lake's northwest side near Tahoe City, Californiamarker. It flows generally northwest through the mountains to Truckee, Californiamarker, then turns sharply to the east and flows into Nevada, past Renomarker and Sparksmarker and along the northern end of the Carson Rangemarker. At Fernleymarker it turns north, flowing along the east side of the Pah Rah Rangemarker and entering the southern end of Pyramid Lake, a remnant of prehistoric Lake Lahontan, in northern Washoe Countymarker in the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation.The water quality of the river in the Reno area has seen tremendous improvement over the past years, with the redevelopment of Reno and the ever growing popularity of river related activities.

Naming of the river

According to George R. Stewart in his book The Pioneers Go West, the Truckee River was named after a Paiute chief who showed a group of settlers the way in 1844. The chief's real name was not Truckee, but rather his Paiute name was Tru-ki-zo. He was given the name Chief Truckee by the first group of settlers to cross the Sierra Nevada who encountered his tribe. When Chief Truckee approached the settlers he yelled, "Tro-kay!" which is Paiute for "Hello", causing the settlers to assume that was his name. Chief Truckee was the father of Chief Winnemucca, grandfather of Sarah Winnemucca, and also served as a guide for John C. Frémont on some of his expeditions.

Uses of the river

Like other rivers in the western United States, the Truckee's flow is highly regulated with most of the river water fully allocated via water rights. Disputes occur among those claiming the water. In the early 20th century, waters of the river were diverted as part of the Newlands Reclamation Act. Currently the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District supervises the diversion of approximately one-third of the river flow at the Derby Dammarker to the Lahontan Valley to irrigate alfalfa and pastures. Its water is also supplied to the resort communities surrounding Lake Tahoe, the greater metropolitan area of Reno and Sparks, and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses some of the water to induce spawning of the endangered fish cui-ui and to provide drought relief. The river is heavily used for recreation, including whitewater rafting and fly fishing. A common rafting run is the River Ranch Run. Starting from the outlet gates at Lake Tahoe stretching about , the run ends at the River Ranch Restaurant. These rapids are almost all class 1 and class 2. This is also the main run for commercial rafting companies, like the Truckee River Raft Company which has been running the river since 1973 and is the original rafting company. In Renomarker, many people use it for kayaking.

Hydrology and water quality

The Truckee River near Truckee, California
Because of the endangered species present and because the Lake Tahoe Basin comprises the headwaters of the Truckee River, the river has been the focus of several water quality investigations, the most detailed starting in the mid-1980s. Under direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a comprehensive dynamic hydrology transport model was developed by Earth Metrics Inc. The model's name was subsequently changed to DSSAM, and it was applied to analyze land use and wastewater management decisions throughout the Truckee River Basin of and to provide guidance in other U.S. river basins. Analytes addressed included nitrogen, reactive phosphate, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids and nine other parameters. Based upon use of the model, some decisions have been influenced to enhance riverine quality and aid the viability of associated biota. Impacts upon the receiving waters of Pyramid Lakemarker were also analyzed.

Darcy Farrow

"Darcy Farrow," a folk song written by Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell mentions the Truckee River and other landmarks and places in the area (including Yeringtonmarker, the Carson Valley, and Virginia Citymarker). The most popular version was performed by John Denver.

See also


  1. C.Michael Hogan. Marc Papineau et al., Development of a dynamic water quality simulation model for the Truckee River, Earth Metrics Inc., Environmental Protection Agency Technology Series, Washington D.C. (1987)
  2. USEPA. 1991. Guidance for water quality-based decisions: The TMDL process. EPA 440/4-91-001. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

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