Truckee River tourin’

Taking an inflatable kayak through town

Mike Miltner and the crew from Tahoe Whitewater Tours.Courtesy Photo

Mike Miltner and the crew from Tahoe Whitewater Tours.Courtesy Photo

A two-hour river trip from Mayberry Drive down to Fisherman’s Park in Sparks Tahoe costs $40. Whitewater Tours can be reached at 787-5000 or (800) 442-7238.

Looking for a bit of adventure right in your backyard this summer? Mike Miltner, owner of Tahoe Whitewater Tours, suggests you look no farther than the Truckee River.

Miltner, who has been guiding river raft excursions for 30 years, says a ride down the Truckee is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Now, if he could only find an office.

Last summer, from the end of July through the Sept. 11 tragedy, he operated out of an office near the Century Riverside 12 movie theater, but the city-owned property had a previous obligation to a restaurateur, so Miltner’s looking for a new space near the river.

But that six weeks last summer convinced him that a river tour through Reno could be a going concern, since with little word of mouth or commercial advertising, the company hosted around 300 tours.

One of Miltner’s big problems is overcoming the misperception that there simply isn’t enough water in the Truckee, after snowmelt, to do river tours. That may have been true once, but with the advancements in equipment technology, there isn’t a day that passes that an inflatable kayak can’t make it down the river.

“In the last five or six years, the technology of inflatable kayaks has increased to the point that they’re commercial-grade boats, and they can handle the low water,” he says.

There have been other changes that have made the river safer for beginners. Back in the ‘80s, there was a dam at Ivan Sack Park, where there was a low-head reversal completely across the river. The Reno Fire department asked the city to remove the obstacle because of all the incidents there, and that section became passable to kayakers.

The trip through Reno, after snowmelt, is considered Class II, although when the channel is full, the Truckee can be a Class III-plus river. The classes are an international designation based on the technical difficulties of running a particular river. It works like this: Class I is slow-moving water; anybody can do it. Class II has waves and obstacles that require basic maneuvering skills, as the current can be strong enough to cause you a problem if you screw up.

You should have a guide for Class III water, since the waves and obstacles require precise maneuvering ability, and boats can flip. Class IV and V require increased skills and experience.

“Class VI is ‘die if you try',” he says.

This summer, the Reno tour will run from Mayberry Drive down to Fisherman’s Park in Sparks, lasts two hours and costs $40.

If Class II water isn’t enough to float your boat, Tahoe Whitewater Tours also does expeditions on other areas of the Truckee River, the Carson River and the American River’s north, south and middle forks.

One of Tahoe Whitewater Tours’ most popular outings is the Boca Run, a half-day Class III tour from Boca Reservoir to Floriston through the Floriston Gorge.

Even though Miltner is under the gun to open an office in time for the summer season, his company has already begun hosting tours down the Truckee through Reno.

“We’ve already taken three or four groups this month—more than 100 people already this spring," he says.