Beto Wetter: Going down the Truckee River, by paddle or pedal
Breathing in the crisp alpine air, taking in the stunning view from the riverbank bike path, feeling the warmth of the sun, and chuckling at the splashing of vacation-goers crammed on classic blue Truckee River Company rafts sipping libations and burgers alike, the Truckee River bike path is a timeless respite to the rush and tumble of city and suburban life in the summer months.
While pedaling down the riverbank, swerving to avoid pebbles, inflatables, bikers, or pedestrians, the Truckee River is a gorgeous meandering waterway that will forever be a gem of the Tahoe region.
The Truckee River, simply called “the Truckee” by locals, is a unique part of the Lake Tahoe basin. Counter-intuitive for many, the Truckee is Lake Tahoe’s sole river leading out of the lake. While historically controlled by the lake’s rim-level, the flow of the Truckee is now regulated by the gates of the Lake Tahoe Dam.
Located at the Truckee’s mouth, Fanny Bridge — so-called because in the olden days people would peer down looking at the rushing water below, exposing their “fannies” (i.e. bottoms) for the passing cars to see — is parallel to the little Lake Tahoe Dam that controls the amount of water that goes down the Truckee.
Equally perplexing is the final destination of the Truckee: Pyramid Lake in Nevada.
Unlike the Hetch Hetchy Valley to the south in Yosemite Valley that was dammed to be the water bank of the City and County of San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the preservation of the Truckee’s natural route meandering through the Sierra is proof that at times, preservation is possible in an age of conservation. With that said, the Truckee still experienced its fair share of controversy, too.
After California was a state for a decade, in the 1860s, San Francisco-based and Russian born engineer Alexis Waldemar Von Schmidt bought a large tract of land in the Lake Tahoe basin, with the intention of building an aqueduct from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco.
Though his proposal may have gotten more traction 40 years later when much of San Francisco was reduced to charred rubble in 1906, it was ultimately shot down by the Mayor of San Francisco at the time, who was wary of the potential water rights lawsuits that would befall him.
Though the Truckee remained the target for ambitious industrialists, in the end, the impracticality of their plans ultimately saved the Truckee — and the greater Tahoe Basin — from anthropomorphic landscape changes as exemplified by the flooding of Hetch Hetchy Valley less than a century later.
Beto Wetter lives in Homewood.
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