Summer is a great time to use one of our area’s greatest amenities, the Truckee River
Charles Albright is a kayak and canoe enthusiast who has been paddling since 1971. He is president of the Sierra Nevada Whitewater Club, which proposed the Truckee River Whitewater Park to the city of Reno and helped get it built. He's been in Reno since 1976.
Tell me a little about the upcoming Reno River Festival.
The River Fest is happening on May 11 and 12. They'll have the freestyle event and a boatercross event, which is top to bottom as fast as possible. On Sunday, they'll have the slaloms. It's a big competition for a whole bunch of big names that come to town for the event for kayaking and canoeing. There will be concerts. There will probably [be] a dog jumping event. They've got so much going on, it's insane. They've got double dutch. The island will be covered with vendors, plenty of food available and hordes of people here selling stuff. I'm helping run some events, like boatercross, and I'll probably score the freestyle. And I'm running slaloms.
What’s your favorite part?
Watching and participating in the different events. Slalom this year because I love racing slalom …What's fun about the boatercross is they'll usually pick one or two gates that people have to go through. When you get four or five people trying to get through one gate, it becomes really fun to watch. It becomes combat mode. Last year, they had it out there on the North Channel, and they had a couple guys out there called “eight balls.” Their job was to mess you up, keep you from advancing down the river, and they were causing people to swim and stuff. It was really fun to watch.
What are the best things families can do on the Truckee?
Laying around down here, having your kids swim. Having a picnic down here. It's a fantastic place for that. A lot of people rent rafts or buy them from Kmart and take their families down the river. I would recommend life jackets, obviously. Summertime, it gets really popular for people to be out here running the river in tubes or small rafts. It's just great to see, except that there's a lot of trash involved, and people do a lot of drinking. But that's probably the best thing that they can do. Here and Rock Park are great for kids. There are hordes of things to do here.
What are some issues that you see the Truckee currently facing?
The issues surrounding the Truckee are primarily, for my use, is that first of all it's a drought year. So we're not going to have as much water, especially at the end of the season. If this were to happen for a year or two, this river wouldn't flow. Back in '92, this river did not flow. There was no water in it to flow. So we don't want to have a situation like that because there are so many people that rely on the drinking water, and a lot of people, like me, need to paddle something. It just drives us nuts if we don't have water. Past that, there's over-usage. We live in a desert, so there's only so much water in this river. A lot of it's not getting out to Pyramid Lake, where it should go, and a lot of it, because of the Newlands Project and various laws, goes out to the Carson River drainage to be irrigation out by Fallon. That's one of the big things.
Also, pollution and people trashing the river is a big problem. Homeless people live all along this river, and they' ' 've got their camps. They throw their trash in the river, or it stays on shore. And the graffiti people have discovered tubing, and they take paint cans with them, so the rocks are now covered with graffiti upstream, too. There's a lot of issues with humans here. There's also a huge impact on the wildlife. There's martins, other birds, ducks and also a lot of fish that live here. People come down here quite often to fish in the mornings. It's great to see, but it's a drain on that resource as well. It used to be that the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout came all the way from Pyramid Lake to Lake Tahoe to breed. There's too many dams in the way now. There's no way fish could ever get up this river unless you put it in a car and drive it up there. That's a big bummer for what used to be the native species. The Rainbow Trout, the carp in here, all those fish are not native. Any kind of fish that's in here is getting hunted out.
And there's the danger of alien aquatic species that are hopping up all over the place, so the state made a new law that requires every single kayak, canoe, raft, inflatable kayak that's going into any body of water in this state to pay for a decal that has to be on your boat. If you don't have the decal, you can get fined. What's that going to do to tourism? Somebody driving through from Idaho or Utah or back east going to California wants to stop at the whitewater park in Reno because they're heard so much about it, but they're going to have to pay 10 bucks for one time. I typically hand my boats out to anyone who wants to borrow them, and I teach handicapped people how to paddle. And I do all sorts of events for the public for free. In a typical year, at least 30 of my 100 boats get used on a body of water in Nevada. I've probably already used 10 or 15 of my boats for a decal, and that means I've got to pay $150 to the state per year for a permit, for a decal. That's a tax that's unfair in my opinion. The other thing that I think really sucks is that, you know all the tubes and little catboats fishermen use out on the lake? They don't charge those. So that's my big peeve of the year. It's just overkill.
What do you think families should know or do about those things?
The main thing is letting your kids know about it and getting them to help police up areas like this. So if you train your kids to pick up trash and you pick it up yourself, that's great. As far as just coming down here and enjoying the place, just know you're sharing it with, quite often on a weekend, a warm weekend here, a thousand people in this park.