Forest Service asks the public to stay on official trails, avoid creating new undesignated trails

Submitted to the Tribune
Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit asks the public to stay on official trails and avoid creating new undesignated trails

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – National Forest lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin include hundreds of miles of official trails designed and constructed to protect wildlife habitat and water quality. The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit asks the public to stay on official trails and avoid creating new undesignated trails. One area of particular concern is Rabe Meadow near Burke Creek and Nevada Beach. 

Due to our wet winter and beaver activity in the area, the Lam Watah Trail which meanders through Rabe Meadow, is currently flooded in some locations and trail users are bypassing flooded sections which is creating undesignated trails in the meadow. Users are asked to remain on designated trails, which in some cases may require walking through flooded sections, rather than around them in order to protect adjacent sensitive areas.

Undesignated trails, also known as user-created trails, cause damage to sensitive areas like Rabe Meadow. User-created trails can be devastating to public land and water quality, especially in areas adjacent to Lake Tahoe which directly impacts lake clarity. It is also expensive and labor-intensive to correct. Healthy meadows (not trampled by footsteps) are important, not only as wildlife habitat but because their natural filtration protects water quality.   

One way to ensure use of official trails is to consult a National Forest map and heed trail signs. If you come across a trail that is not on the map and doesn’t have a trail sign or marker, it is likely a user-created trail.

The Burke Creek Rabe Meadow Riparian Restoration Project includes plans to reroute sections of the Lam Watah Trail and construct boardwalks to address flooding and water quality issues in Rabe Meadow, Jennings Pond, Nevada Beach Campground, and the Douglas County Lake Tahoe Sewer Authority pump station. Due to heavy winter precipitation and subsequent flooding, as well as other unforeseen circumstances, implementation of this project has been delayed.

The purpose of the Burke Creek project is to complete previous restoration efforts between U.S. Highway 50 and the outlet of Burke Creek at Lake Tahoe. These restoration activities are designed to improve water quality and meadow vegetation, aquatic and terrestrial habitat for animals and plants, as well as restore the natural function of the creek and adjacent meadow. 

Restoration project work expected to begin this summer has been delayed until next year and may take two years to complete. Some trail reroutes and upgrades will still be implemented this summer to address flooding concerns. 

The Proposed Action for this project is available for viewing on the project webpage and a video project overview can be viewed on YouTube. For more information, contact Meghan Kelly at or Theresa Cody at

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