Floating the Truckee River has been one of my favorite summertime traditions since college, and like many hobbies I picked up around that time, it usually involves a few drinks. Few activities beat lazily drifting along in the sun, sipping a beer and watching the High Sierra scenery creep by—but there’s a right and wrong way to partake.
Lazy locals have been trashing the Truckee for years now; even a cursory glance at the river’s shallows reveals a vast and disgusting assortment of trash, and alcohol containers are among the most common type of litter.
I went to Wingfield Park to see if any of the visitors there shared my concerns, and found Tony Capone, Jose Gonzalez and Maria Crusita at the end of their float. The three agreed that the amount of trash in the river and park is off-putting.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t give a fuck,” said Capone. “They disrespect, they litter, and they pollute. We’re not with that. If you’re eco-friendly, everyone’s got to have a part in it.”
“It’s disgusting,” added Crusita. “It’s awful. Who wouldn’t want to pick it up?’
I asked them what they did to keep the river clean on their floats, and Capone pointed to a large, sturdy ice-box at his feet containing the empty bottles of Modelo and Corona from the day.
I liked this strategy. A cooler is sturdier than a trash bag, which might easily be lost or ripped in the Truckee’s occasional rough spots. But I would also discourage anyone from bringing glass bottles, the broken shards of which are invisible underwater until stepped on.
Gonzalez said perhaps that a park fee, similar to the one at Pyramid Lake might provide extra capital for upkeep. “You want to be here for more than an hour? You want to swim? 10 dollars,” he said. “That’s going to actually provide somebody to come here and clean the place up.”
Capone offered a more direct solution.
“It’s called picking up after yourself,” he said. “The environment is nice to us, so let’s be nice to the environment.”
I agree that more people need to take ownership over our shared water sources, especially if we value them as places to relax, and, yes, have a drink. From my experience over the years, a little moderation and some conscientious beverage choices can help maintain both a healthy river and buzz.
Bagged wine, known as “goon” to our Australian friends, is easily retrievable should it go overboard, as it floats even when full. Most bags also have a screw-tight nozzle, protecting the contents between gulps. The empty bag can easily be rolled up and stowed in a secure trash container or backpack.
Hydration packs are also a great option for minimizing waste on the river. Emptying a six-pack into a CamelBak on the shore is far more convenient than navigating the occasional rapid with an open can. The type of floatation device you choose can also have an impact on what you might lose in the water. It’s better to opt for inner tubes with mesh bottoms when possible, as these will provide more of an opportunity to catch items than the flat, slick surface of the ever-popular air mattress.
Last year, volunteer clean up crews removed 113,000 pounds of trash and invasive plants from the river. If you float the Truckee this summer, remember ot take your trash with you.