Truckee whitewater guides in full swing as flows slow in Tahoe City
Lack of water grounds Tahoe rafting companies
After opening for summer operations on June 26, Tahoe City’s rafting companies have been run aground by low water levels on the Truckee River.
Since the area’s two rafting companies — Truckee River Rafting and Truckee River Raft Co. — began seasonal operations last month, the Federal Water Master has slowed the flow from Lake Tahoe into the Truckee as downstream demands are being met and lake levels are just below the maximum legal elevation of 6,229.1 feet.
On June 8, it was announced the flow rate coming from the Lake Tahoe Dam dipped below 200 cubic feet per second, meaning the river would be unsuitable for rafting.
In order to offer self-guided trips along the roughly five-mile stretch of river from Tahoe City toward Alpine Meadows, flow rates need to be between 200 to 400 cubic feet per second.
The July closure for the companies is typical for the summer operating season, which often includes times when there is either too much or too little water being spilled from the dam for suitable rafting conditions.
— Justin Scacco
TRUCKEE, Calif. — While conditions for rafting the Truckee River near Tahoe City are temporarily unsuitable due to a lack of water flowing out of the Lake Tahoe Dam, a trio of rafting companies in Truckee are still taking clients down stretches of the river.
Tahoe Whitewater Tours, Raft California, and IRIE Rafting Company each began guided tours down rivers last May, and offer a wide variety of trips including ones down the Truckee River and American River.
“Because it was high water, we were on the Verdi section of the river until the end of June,” said Raft California Office Manager Jenny Ward on the start to this year’s rafting season. “And then we’ve switched back to our Boca run now.”
Beginning last year, Tributary Whitewater Tour, which has operated in the area since 1978, merged with other companies to form Raft California.
Throughout the rafting season, which runs from May until fall as conditions allow, Raft California offers guided tours on the American River, Truckee River, Klamath River, Trinity River, Carson River, and more.
On the Truckee, Raft California and the other local rafting outfits make use of a section near Boca Reservoir on the Little Truckee River to launch rafts. From there, the river quickly runs into its confluence with the Truckee as rafters make their way down Class II up to Class III rapids.
Rafting that section of the Truckee differs greatly from the more leisurely floats offered in Tahoe City, which take rafters down a section of river leaving Lake Tahoe. Rafting in that section of the river is done when flow rates are between 200 and 400 cubic feet per second, while further down conditions become a little more rowdy.
“We’re expecting to get about 600 (cubic feet per second) throughout the rest of the season,” said Ward on the route from Boca Reservoir. “Normally we get anywhere from 550 down to 450 (cubic feet per second) throughout August.”
With rafting operations halted in Tahoe City last Monday due to a lack of water, Ward said the different rafting companies have worked together to help find a way to get customers on the water.
“We’re kind of working with those outfits to kind of help them offload some of their clientele,” said Ward. “Once they’re back up and running, we refer other people to them when we’re full.”
The half-day trip down the Truckee River through Raft California is open to ages 7 and older. The price of rafting the Truckee River ranges between $74 and $79. For full prices and all of the company’s offerings, visit RaftCalifornia.com.
Tahoe Whitewater Tours, which has operated on the Truckee since 1994, also offers trips down the Truckee River, Carson River, and American River during rafting season.
“May was all rain and cold, so we couldn’t do much until probably around the first of June,” said Owner Mike Miltner on the early parts of the season. “Then with all the high water, until it dropped, we were running down to Verdi every day … now we’re into high season and unlike the guys in Tahoe City we can still operate, which is sad for them. I feel for them, but because we’re below the reservoirs, that still provides enough water for us.”
Tahoe Whitewater Tours has half day and full day runs beginning in Boca, which feature Class II rapids up to Class IV.
“That’s our bread and butter because it’s the closest thing to Tahoe and it’s a half-day tour,” said Miltner. “We do that more than anything, but like this week we’ve done two middle forks (American River), we’ve done a south fork, and we’ve got two more coming in the next couple of days, but the Boca to Floriston run is our little niche on the North Shore.”
Half-day tours on that stretch of the Truckee are $70, and the full day is $135. For more information on tours and pricing, visit GoWhiteWater.com.
IRIE Rafting Company has been taking people down the Truckee for more than 20 years.
The company offers half-day trips from Boca to Floriston, which are suitable for ages 5 and older. IRIE Rafting also has full day trips from Boca to Verdi. The half-day trip costs $75 for adults and $65 for ages 14 and under. The full-day trip costs $129.
IRIE Rafting also has guided trips on the American River and Carson River during the season. For all three companies, rafting the Carson River and certain sections of the American River are only available during the spring when rivers swell with snow melt.
For more information or to book a trip with IRIE Rafting, visit RaftIrie.com.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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