Friday, June 26, 2009

Floating the Truckee River

2011 Update

When it comes to leisure summer time activities in Tahoe, nothing is more popular than floating the Truckee. This is one activity that crosses all boundaries of race, age, wealth, as well as physically shape and partying ability. I have seen one year old babies float in their own tube as well as taken my mother down the river.

Floating the Truckee refers to rafting the section of the Truckee River between Fanny Bridge (just north/west of the dam release), and the River Ranch restaurant (just south/east of Alpine Meadows Road). It should not be confused with Rafting the white water section along highway 80 on the way to Reno, nor should it be referred as the Upper Truckee River, a creek found in South Lake Tahoe.

This last Sunday, looking for a relaxing activity, we decided to float the Truckee. Though the weather was a bit chilly, we loaded up coolers and our rafts and headed out.

Equipment-The simplest way to float is to rent a raft from one of the many rafting companies near the junction of Hwy 89 and 28 in Tahoe City and the "Y".
These guys will gladly take your money in exchange for a pro grade raft, and shuttle service. But this is not the true way to experience the river. Most that float the river use rafts of much lower quality. The ideal vessel is a "X"-mart raft with upgraded paddles, inner tubes are also a great choice. I have even seen people on air mattress, and even a pair on a blow up killer whale.

Logistics-since running any river is a one-way thing, a little bit of pre planning is required. During the peak summer months, parking at both the take out and the put in is limited. Traffic going into Tahoe City is also a bear to deal with on these peak weekends. Rather than using two cars. Based on conditions I usually leave a bike at either the put in or the take out. The ideal put in is along the south shore of the river, since the north is dominated by the commercial outfits. The south shore put in can be accesses easily from "64 acres", from Tahoe City, take 89 south over Fanny Bridge, go a few hundred feet and take a right.

Boozing-A float trip would not be a float trip without a little boozing. However this aspect of the float has come under fire in the last few years. Litter, drunk driving, and a non-family atmosphere has almost lead to the ban of alcohol on the river. Last year a no alcohol law was passed for the fourth of July weekend. Though the law was passed, no citations were issued. Also take into consideration that law enforcement often park at the take out looking for the drunk floater to come to shore and stumble to their parked cars to drive away.

The float is approxiamtely five miles long and takes a minimum of 2 hours. The bike ride between the IN and the OUT take 10-15 minutes. A few aventurous soles might attempt the rapids past the take out. Be warned that though the rapids are not very dangerous, class 2ish, the sharp rocks, not found on the upper section of the river, often ripps holes in "X"-mart rafts.


  1. I hope we do this a few more times this summer!!

  2. Let us know when the next float trip is.

  3. Is it ok to take out at River Ranch with personal rafts rather than rafting companies?

  4. Yes, No problem using the RR take out.

  5. do they have buses at the RR to bring back to tahoe city for non-renters?

  6. I will answer my own question. yes there is public transportation. TART or something like that. comes by the RR at 8 minutes after the hour. cost is 1.75, they give no change. taxi cost is $20. the bus got there about 4:20 this saturday. nice river ride but so many people. i think i will come back mid september.

    1. If you're floating again this year check out Truckee River Taxi for cheap shuttle rides ($5 per person). You can load your gear and pets and they drop you off by your car...

  7. We were planning a rafting trip for this sunday , but weather to be cold and possible thunderstorms. What is it like in Sept? Can you still raft that late in the season?

  8. Yes but it can be no fun. Other then the cold you mentioned, the water level that time of year is ususaly very low. As scrape your butt on rocks low. If the weather is good and you don't mind a little river walking...

  9. Hi, is there a event on the Truckee River like the River Regatta in Laughlin, NV? It is a blast a bunch of people floating and partying. I would love to do this on the Truckee River and so would my friends. Thanks

  10. Hi Bill, thanks for the useful review on floating the Truckee River. We love floating this section! Truckee River Taxi started doing shuttle rides for $5 a person between the take-out at River Ranch and the top of the river. They run shuttles 10-6 m-f and 10-8 weekends, or you can do taxi rides round trip to/from river with gear and pets for cheap from your house/hotel. If you have kayaks or paddle boards they have a system devised so you can float toward your car if u park at the bottom. It's a great service they started in 2011 to reduce the 2-car shuttle and with the round trip taxi people can imbibe and get home safe without leaving a car or two parked in town or on the highway. Happy Floating!