Truckee River Rafting

Rafting on the Truckee River Near Tahoe City
Vlad Butsky/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

If you're going to Lake Tahoe in the spring and summer, consider taking a rafting trip on the Truckee River. The rafting trips described below range from a slow, easy ride to heart-pounding rapids.

Conditions on the river vary by season and by year. In 2017, no rafting was allowed for part of the summer because of dangerously high water flow. In drought years, the river may have too little water. No matter what, it's best to contact a rafting company before you add this activity to your list of things to do on Lake Tahoe trip.

Truckee River Rafting: Easy Floats

The Truckee River begins near Carson Pass, Nevada and flows into Lake Tahoe, where water is released through a dam at Tahoe City, California. That's where these lazy river trips begin.

Most people who raft California's Truckee River take the scenic float from Tahoe City to River Ranch. These short trips are unguided, and you have to paddle yourself. That's not as hard as it sounds because the water is gentle and flowing in the same direction you are traveling.

These gentle trips are suitable for people of all ages, and the rafting companies will allow riders aged two years and up. And dogs are allowed, too. You can rent 2, 4, 6, and eight-person rafts depending on your group size but solo rafting is not permitted. Rafting season begins in the summer, often around the first of July, depending on snowmelt.

These tips will help you make the most of your day:

  • Take your time. The river is beautiful, and you can take all day if you want, but allow at least two to three hours.
  • Wear hats and sunscreen, and take plenty of water to drink. Footwear is also mandatory. Sandals with secure straps or water shoes are best, but flip flops are also okay.
  • It's a good idea to take some food along in case you get into a picnicking mood. You can take soft-sided coolers in your raft, but not heavy ones and leave styrofoam and glass at home.
  • Wear clothing that dries out quickly, so you don't have to go around with a soggy bottom after you're done. Don't bother to take towels because they will promptly get soaked and become useless.
  • You will find portable restrooms at the launch site and about every mile on the river bank next to the bike trail.
  • The last rapids before the end of your trip are the most challenging. Practice steering before you get to them.
  • Don't be one of those people who don't wear their safety gear for the whole trip. Your life could depend on it.
  • Your short float on the Truckee ends at River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant, which is a good place to get a bite to eat.

These companies can rent you a raft for your little adventure.

  • Truckee River Raft Rentals: They have a parking lot across from their office in Tahoe City, but you can park at River Ranch and take their bus for free.
  • Truckee River Rafting: This family-run company has free parking near their office, but it is limited and they encourage carpooling. They provide return shuttles to your starting point.

Truckee River Rafting: Whitewater

Whitewater season on the Truckee River is from mid-May through September. During that time, it's best to reserve your trip at least two weeks ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

The raft trip from Boca to Floriston going east from Truckee toward Reno is a Class 2-3 adventure usually available all summer. The Boca to Verde run is Class 3 to 4.

Most of the tips above apply, but there are a few more things you need to know:

  • Minimum age varies from six to 13, depending on the class of water.
  • During colder months, you will need extra layers of clothing to keep warm.
  • Some companies have passenger weight limits, but they will waive them for people who are in good physical condition.
  • Pets are not allowed on whitewater trips.
  • For overnight trips, you will need more gear which your tour company can tell you about.
  • You are probably going to get wet. Take dry clothing and shoes to change into for your drive home and take plastic bags to carry your wet things

    These outfitters run whitewater rafting trips near Lake Tahoe:

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