Raise a paddle: Rafting season underway in Tahoe City
Time to lather on the sunscreen and grab a paddle. Rafting season in Tahoe City is officially underway.
The two companies operating on the initial stretch of the Truckee River — Truckee River Raft Co. and Truckee River Rafting — received the call on Tuesday from Federal Water Master Chad Blanchard that conditions would be ripe the following morning to send the season’s first paddlers down the river.
“All spring the river has been too high,” said Truckee River Rafting Owner Richard Courcier, who added the ideal flow rate for rafting the stretch of the river between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows is between 200 to 400 cubic feet per second. “The river has been anywhere from 800 to 1,100 (cubic feet per second), because of so much snowpack and the lake was coming up too high.”
Conditions for operating on that stretch of the river are highly dependent on the amount of water being let out of the Lake Tahoe Dam.
As the snowpack melts, water is spilled from the dam in order to keep the lake below its legal elevation of 6,229.1 feet. Water is also spilled from the lake during spring and summer when the natural flow (the flow rate at a site without any releases from storage) at Farad falls below 500 cubic feet per second.
The scenario often creates periods during the rafting season where there is too little or too much water flowing in that section of the Truckee River.
The flow rate from the Lake Tahoe Dam was lowered from nearly 600 cubic feet per second on Tuesday morning, according to the Federal Water Master’s daily report, to 401 cubic feet per second on Wednesday morning, ideal for swift operations. The lake’s elevation on Wednesday was measured at 6,228.98.
With a small window for rafting on that particular section of the Truckee, Courcier said the hope is for the flow rate to remain suitable for operations through summer. Following 2017’s historic winter, the companies had to cease operations during the middle of summer due to too little water being released as the required flow rate downriver was being met by other sources.
“There might be a period there where we might have to close down due to low water,” said Courcier in comparing 2017 and 2019. “I’m sure August will be fine, we’ll definitely be open all of August and Labor Day.”
If the flow rate drops too low for operations, it will likely be during a portion of July.
Truckee River Rafting and Truckee Raft Co. offer self-guided trips along a roughly five-mile stretch of the Truckee River, beginning in Tahoe City. The river in that area is relatively leisurely with a few rapids and is suitable for ages 2 and older. The trip’s last roughly two to three hours. Prices at the two companies range from $30 to $50 depending on age and number of rafters.
“We’re looking forward to a busy summer,” said Courcier. “We’ve got a lot of reservations for Fourth of July already. With this high flow right now, it’s going to be fun.”