River man


Charles Albright is a local kayaker and instructor who has been paddling on the Truckee River for more than four decades. This year, he’s concerned for people’s safety.

So, you actually contacted me to talk about river safety.

This is 5,000 [cubic feet per second], at least, out here right now. The river is going probably 10 miles per hour. And you can’t fight that kind of current. OK? And there’s several situations along the river right now. The water is bank full, so if you get anywhere near the shore, you’re near the trees and bushes. OK? And water goes through trees and bushes, and people don’t. There’s several places upstream from here, mainly Glendale Dam and Chalk Bluff Dam, that have some very serious reversals going on right now, and they’ve already had a couple of rescues at some of those. Just this week some woman fell in the river.

What do you mean by reversal?

Like at Chalk Bluff Dam, which is just west of West McCarran, the water is going [over a drop-off], so the water goes down, and it goes deep, and then it comes back up, and it starts to fill in that void from where it went down. … And it’s river-wide, and if you get into it with a raft or a kayak or tube, like people use all summer long, it’s going to at least flip you. And it’s probably going to keep you and your raft there for a while.

So it’s like those spots at the downtown whitewater park that are terraformed, but bigger?

Yes, well, at the whitewater park there’s drops like that. Correct. But when it comes to river-wide reversals, like … Glendale Dam, they’re really dangerous, because they’re so big, and there’s no way to really escape them. … You might swim out, but it’s not going to be easy, and you could drown or get severely hurt. And then the other thing about Glendale Dam is the fact that it’s primarily built out of fracked rock. Fracked rock is rock that’s been crushed and broken up into pieces, and it’s just thrown all over the river bank, and it is not stable. … It’s a really good place to twist an ankle or fall and get your leg or your foot stuck or your arms. And another thing that’s really important is to realize that people have got to wear life jackets and helmets. It’s a good idea to let people know that you’re doing something, so that they can check on you if you don’t come back right away. Does that make sense?


And typically when you flip over in a tube, you flip over backwards, so your head goes underneath the stream. And what’s on the bottom is rocks, and you could get a head injury really easily. … It’s a real common occurrence, and this year the river is just going to be huge all the way through August, at least. …

Don’t you think the river will hit a point where it’s closer to what people expect during tubing and kayaking season?

No. Well, here’s what’s going on. There’s so much snow up there, and this winter has been weird in that it’s still raining and snowing and stuff. … Tahoe is already full. All of those other Lakes upstream—Boca, Stampede, Prosser—all of those are still at flood holding levels. … But they’re all going to get maxed out as the summer progresses. The river is, for the River Festival next month, … if it’s warm beforehand, it’ll probably be flowing at 6,000 cfs This is 5000.

Will they even have the River Festival?

Oh, yeah. But there won’t be many events. I can’t even get in the channel [at Wingfield Park] to put in my slalom course, because it’s so high.