The Truckee River’s headwaters run from 9,000-foot peaks that flow from Carson Pass into Lake Tahoe, one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. The lake overflows at its northwest corner at Tahoe City and a small dam regulates the flow. The section from Tahoe City to River Ranch is popular with tubers, but is generally avoided by more serious boaters.
The most popular section to run begins three miles down from Tahoe City at River Ranch. This stretch flows for 27 miles down to Floriston and offers many continuous Class II and III+ rapids. Unlike most of the rivers in the coastal range, the Truckee falls continuously instead of pool-and-drop rapids that characterize the rest of the rivers in this region.
The Truckee flows through the wooded country of the high Sierra dessert, past the well-known ski areas of Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley and through the historic railroad town of Truckee. There are plenty of access points for this run, as the I-80 runs right beside the river. Usually the road is high enough that it is out of site and out of mind.
Boaters should beware of the section before the take out at Floriston, as there are a series of Class III boulder gardens; less experienced boaters might choose to portage here. There is also a dangerous diversion dam right down stream from Floriston, so keep an eye out for the I-80 bridge which crosses the river just after the place to take out on river right.