Restore the Upper Truckee River

Improving Lake Tahoe's Clarity & Environment. Increasing Recreational Access & Connectivity. Strengthening Our Local Economy

Please Learn More and Be Informed about the Facts of the Project

Current Condition of the River

Eroding bed & banks, disconnected from its floodplain & lacks habitat.

Desired Condition of the River

Connected to its floodplain with healthy riparian vegetation.

healthy upper truckee river restoration

Restoration of this reach of the Upper Truckee River is critical for improvement of riparian habitat and water quality. The proposed Project achieves a balance to restore function to the river while still providing recreation—consistent with State Parks Mission.

Cyndie WalckEngineering Geologist (specialty Fluvial Geomorphology)

Proposed Project Description

California State Parks is working on a revised alternative for the Upper Truckee River Restoration and Golf Course Reconfiguration Project. The previous project included swapping of land between Washoe Meadows State Park (WMSP) and Lake Valley State Recreation Area (LVSRA) to accommodate relocating some holes away from the river. Due to public opposition, this alternative has been revised to keep all of the golf area within LVSRA.

The proposed project consists of geomorphic-based river restoration, similar to the previous project, coupled with a reconfigured, reduced-footprint 18-hole regulation golf course fully within LVSRA. The Proposed Project will restore the natural geomorphic and ecological processes to this section of the river by restoring a meandering pattern, and reconnecting the river to its floodplain. This will improve riparian vegetation and wildlife corridors and will reduce erosion and subsequent delivery of clarity-reducing sediment to Lake Tahoe. The 18-hole Audubon award-winning golf course will be reconfigured within LVSRA, relocating golf holes away from the river’s edge and incorporating water conservation efficiencies with an updated irrigation system and a reduction in turf. Existing golf course infrastructure (undersized bridges, fairways, greens, cart paths) near the river would be removed and the area restored and revegetated. The golf course would be re-designed and rebuilt within LVSRA to minimize impacts on the SEZ and channel function. New shared-use (golf and non-golf recreation) bridges that span the floodplain would be constructed that would not interfere with stream function. Recreation access would increase to the Upper Truckee River and to Washoe Meadows State Park. This Proposed Project is part of a broader, multi-agency collaborative effort, to restore several reaches of the Upper Truckee River and improve Lake Tahoe water clarity. It will benefit the environment, improve recreational opportunities, and maintain economic benefits to the community.

The Problem

Over the past century, the Upper Truckee River has been impacted by logging, gravel mining, grazing, channel manipulation, and the subsequent development of the golf course directly on the floodplain. Prior to the 1940’s this section of the Upper Truckee River was straightened, leading to a decrease in sinuosity and steeping of slope which increased erosive force. The channel down-cut relative to its floodplain, leaving the old floodplain to become a terrace that is only flooded in less frequent events. Meadow habitat and floodplain function has been lost, and erosion continues. The golf course was built on the previous floodplain/meadow area in 1958-1962, further impacting the river and floodplain. Golf course bridges lock the channel into an unstable configuration and accelerate erosion, while golf course turf extends to the edge of the river, leaving no habitat corridor or buffer zone between fertilizer application and the stream. These impacts have led to a change in the natural processes that originally formed the river channel and sustained the ecosystem. The result is chronic erosion of the bed and banks of the river, degradation of instream and riparian habitat, and poor water quality, which in turn contribute to clarity loss in Lake Tahoe.

For more information, visit History & Background.

On average, erosion from the project reach produces 16 dump trucks of sediment per year. This sediment negatively impacts aquatic habitat in the river and the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

(Source: Swanson Report)

Detailed Maps of Proposed Project Restoration


River & Environment…

  • Restores a 1.5 mile section of the Upper Truckee River
  • Protects Lake Tahoe’s clarity by reducing sediment input
  • Reduces golf course turf and decreases area adjacent to the river
  • Protects the fen area and reduces impacts to the stream environment
  • Works in conjunction with a multi-reach restoration effort along the Upper Truckee River
  • Restores riparian habitat and provides a more continuous riverine corridor by moving golf holes away from the river’s edge

Golf & Economy…

  • Retains and improves the 18-hole championship, Audubon recognized golf course
  • Relocates four holes to less sensitive land out of the floodplain
  • Updates irrigation system of the golf course to be more water efficient and replace old pipes
  • Generates substantial revenues and jobs to the local economy
  • Replaces porta-potty with new restroom
  • Continues to provide affordable golf to the local community and visitors


  • Increases recreation access to Upper Truckee River, opening a mile of previously closed river to the public, while maintaining current access
  • Potential to add new ADA accessible trail along the restored river connecting from HWY 50 to a new recreation bridge which would connect to trails on the west side of the river in Washoe Meadows State Park providing greater regional connectivity
Proposed Project

Proposed Project Endorsed By

The Benefits of Restoring the Upper Truckee River

Restores the Natural Environment

  • Restores a 1.5 mile section of the Upper Truckee River to directly reduce clarity-reducing sediment flowing into Lake Tahoe and stop erosion due to artificial straightening.
  • Restores meadow floodplain and the stream environment zone.
  • Improves riparian habitat and provides more continuous riverine corridor.
  • Reconnects the river to its floodplain, restoring water table and vegetation.
  • Reduces golf course turf.
  • Moves four golf course holes (further away from the river, creating a buffer to help protect the natural environment).
  • Reduces golf course adjacent to the river.
  • Removes five erosion-causing fire-prone undersized bridges and replaces with three longer bridges.
  • Protects fen and wetlands in WMSP (which are outside of the project area).

Improves Recreational Opportunities

  • Improves and keeps the 18-hole championship golf course delivering significant economic benefits to the community with an updated layout and water-saving irrigation improvements.
  • Keeps affordable golf recreation to the local community and visitors.
  • Opens a mile of river access to recreation access for fishing, swimming and bird watching (currently closed to recreation because it’s in the middle of golf play).
  • Creates new recreation access near the clubhouse, including trailhead and picnic tables.
  • Replaces port-o-potty with new restroom.
  • Potential to construct a new ADA accessible trail paralleling the southeast side of the river, connecting from Highway 50 to a new bridge. If feasible, it will connect to trails on the west side of the river and provide greater regional connectivity to increase visitor access to Washoe Meadows State Park (which currently does not have any developed access or parking).
  • Allows for the Clubhouse to become more of a visitor center — a gateway to the Tahoe Basin — and provide more interpretation.

Strengthens the Local Economy

  • Ensures a sustainable key revenue generator for California State Parks: revenues from the golf course support State Park operations in the Tahoe Basin to keep other parks open.
  • Keeps tourism dollars related to the golf course in South Lake Tahoe.
  • Generates employment in South Lake Tahoe via both Lake Tahoe Golf Course and golf-related tourism jobs.
  • Boosts the local economy directly and incrementally: approximately 2/3 of golf rounds are played by visitors from out of town. These visitors also spend money on lodging, meals, and additional related tourism that supports the local economy.

Previous Alternatives Considered

Alternatives 1 through 5 were analyzed in the previous environmental documents. California State Parks is developing a new alternative within LVSRA that will be considered in a future environmental document.

click images to enlarge