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Denis Peirce: Salmon increasing as rivers drop

This is the last week of August and right on time the salmon are moving up the valley rivers. With this drought year we are seeing opposing factors converging, the water is dropping as the number of fish is on the rise. Luckily we have dams to draw water from to keep some flows going.

Years ago I fished with a striper guide near Sacramento. He had grown up in the valley before Shasta Dam was operational. He recalled some dry years where he could walk across the Sacramento River in ankle deep water. We have seen this before and ultimately we will get through this drought.

The Feather River is our closest salmon fishery. The water flows have been steadily dropping over the last month from 2300 cfs at Gridley to 1200. The projection is for continued cuts to the flows.

At these flows navigation on the river is tough. Normally there is a boat launch just above the After Bay Hole. You might get a car top boat in there but the larger guide boats have to launch down at Gridley. Even if you launch at Gridley the ride up river has been described as having a “Pucker Factor.” There are numerous sand and gravel bars with only a narrow slot that a jet boat could navigate. If you get the slot wrong you’re going to have a bad day.

Down by Yuba City conditions are not much better. The Oroville Dam problem of a few years back resulted in major silting of the river bed. Many of the deep holes that the salmon used as holding spots are now filled in. There are a couple of dredging operations under way. At the Yuba City ramp silt is being removed. There is a similar effort at the Live Oak ramp.

At Live Oak there is a rock dam that backs up the water for an irrigation take out. As the river flow continues to decline there is a concern that the fish may not be able to pass this obstacle.

Farther down river at Boyd’s Pump boat ramp, things are tough as well. The Yuba is putting about 400 cfs into the Feather above Boyd’s but it still is not enough water to get a larger boat onto the water. There have been big stripers sighted below the Shanghai Rapids feeding on pike minnows.

With these conditions the salmon fishing is primarily a search for deep water where the salmon will hold. At the 5th Street Bridge in Yuba City shore anglers are pounding the hole regularly, often using dubious methods.

Normal method for this time of year is drifting eggs as your boat rides the current. This year drifting is out of the question and “Hanging eggs” in a hole is the best bet. The problem is the few remaining holes have other anglers on them. Charlie’s Hole and the After Bay Hole close to Oroville have been producing a few fish.

The good news is that water temps from Oroville down to Gridley start the day in the high 50’s and get up to 62 in the afternoon. Most years, boat anglers out fish the shore anglers. This year as the water flow continues to decline, the shore anglers will have access to more water than the boaters.

The Sacramento River is doing better than the Feather for fish counts and water flow. At Colusa the river has 5000 cfs. Most of the fishing is taking place from Corning north, where the water is cooler. The guide reports are showing up to a fish per rod on good days. The flows here are being stepped down as the irrigation season draws to a close. To date the number of fish swimming up the river has exceeded the poor returns forecast last winter.

On the Lower Yuba there are good numbers of salmon in the system. Salmon fishing is not allowed on the Yuba. Tom Page, Reel Angler’s Fly Shop, has started fishing egg imitations for the rainbows and steelhead. This looks like a much better salmon return than we have seen on the Yuba in a few years.

I checked in with Tommy Chew at the mouth of the Klamath River. The summer run steelhead have been good in recent weeks. There have been fish up to seven pounds landed. Tommy reports that the fish were as high up river as Johnson’s (about 15 miles). The quantity of half pounders and adults looks like we are headed for a good year on the Klamath.

The National Forests in the northern Sierra are closed through the Labor Day weekend and possibly beyond. This precludes fishing on the North Yuba River and many high country lakes. Shawn Rainsbarger, Shawns Guide Service, has switched from Boca to Donner Lake for kokanee trips.

The solution for all of our fishing issues is more water. Pray for a heavy wet winter!

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com

Mary West: Exploring Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail

 

Take a stroll through Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail. I found a wonderful change of pace while tackling a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). I tend to start at the foot of a mountain and climb to the top to enjoy the view. Or I hike a trail down to the bottom of a ravine to enjoy the river. The Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail is neither up nor down but a wide flat trail that opens to a meadow with views of Mount Rose, Slide Mountain and more.

While walking the decomposed granite path I recalled the feeling of riding my bike as a kid. Remember when you could let go of the handlebars and just peddle? That is what this trail felt like. No effort to climb the big hills, no caution given to steep drop offs. This is an easy trail to relax and enjoy.

The meadows host wetlands covered in green vegetation. The large ponds are home to a variety of birds, wildflowers and grasses. In mid-September the area was lush and thriving where lower elevations are dry and brown.

Several trails lead from this Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest trailhead. Take your pick. The Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail is a highly maintained 1.3-mile loop trail. The Mount Rose Summit Trail is a five-mile trek. The Tahoe Rim Trail segment from Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Summit is 21.8 miles. The entire Tahoe Rim Trail, around the lake, is 165 miles.

To get there take Interstate 80 east to exit 188B for CA-89/CA-267 South toward Sierraville/Lake Tahoe. Turn left onto North Lake Blvd. Exit onto NV431. In less than 7 miles parking for the trailhead will be on your right.

Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (2nd edition Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram

The meadows host wetlands covered in green vegetation. The large ponds are home to a variety of birds, wildflowers and grasses.
Photo by Mary West
The Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail is neither up nor down but a wide flat trail that opens to a meadow with views of Mount Rose, Slide Mountain and more.
Photo by Mary West
The large ponds are home to a variety of birds, wildflowers and grasses.
Photo by Mary West
Several trails lead from this Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest trailhead.
Photo by Mary West

SYRCL, BriarPatch provide river-friendly sunscreen

BriarPatch Food Co-op has teamed up with the South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL) River Ambassadors to make river-friendly sunscreen available to Yuba river-goers each weekend through Memorial Day.

Beginning early this summer, River Ambassadors began fielding questions from river-goers about the slicks they were seeing on the river. While an oily film on the water can be the result of anything from gas to naturally occurring iron-oxidizing bacteria, the film being reported at busy river crossings was most likely sunscreen.

When SYRCL approached BriarPatch about the sunscreen problem, they enthusiastically agreed to donate two gallons of water-resistant “reef-safe” sunscreen, which is also river-friendly because it is free of harmful chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate that have been found to be lethal to some freshwater organisms, to the River Ambassador program. Starting this weekend, the River Ambassadors stationed at Highway 49, Bridgeport, and Purdon crossings will have large pump bottle available for visitors to use as an alternative to more conventional sunscreens.

“With the current drought conditions, we need to be extra diligent about protecting the river and its inhabitants from harmful chemicals like the ones found in most sunscreens,” said Melinda Booth, SYRCL’s Executive Director. “We are grateful that BriarPatch has stepped in to make an alternative available.”

With tens of thousands of visitors to the Yuba this summer, initiatives like this can make a big difference in the health of the Yuba.

“The Co-op is happy to support SYRCL in any way we can to do such important work to protect our environment, said Marketing Manager, Rebecca Torpie. “Our community really depends on this organization to keep our river clean. It’s more than a worthy investment.” In a commitment to reducing environmental impacts, BriarPatch carries only reef-safe sunscreen products.

BriarPatch also generously donated signage that explains the importance of waiting 15 minutes after applying sunscreen before getting into your favorite swimming hole. Doing so allows the sunscreen to absorb into your skin and do the work of protecting you from UV rays.

Choosing reef-safe sunscreen is one way to help keep the river clean and healthy. SYRCL also recommends wearing clothing with a UPF rating as an alternative along with hats and sunglasses.

Starting this weekend, the River Ambassadors stationed at Highway 49, Bridgeport, and Purdon crossings will have large pump bottle available for visitors to use as an alternative to more conventional sunscreens.
Provided photo
Choosing reef-safe sunscreen is one way to help keep the river clean and healthy.
Provided photo

Denis Peirce: A fish camp lost

 

There are times and places where the stars align to make a “Fish Camp” possible. It takes a combination of an excellent fishery, a place for lodging but most of all the personality of the hosts to make a memorable fish camp.

These days, that quality of fishing still exists in Alaska, enabling many fish camps to operate there. Here in California really good fishing can be difficult to find. “The Steelhead Lodge” near the mouth of the Klamath River was one such place, back in the 1970s when the steelhead runs were still strong. Crosby’s Lodge at Pyramid Lake Nevada, when Fred and Judy Crosby owned it, was another renowned fish camp for a couple of decades.

Half a dozen years ago John Crotty and Deb Reynolds bought a motel in Canyon Dam at the south end of Lake Almanor. They had a dream and the drive to make something special. They took it from a diamond in the rough into a place nice enough to take a woman. Both the grounds and the building needed lots of TLC and the couple were no strangers to work. Every year when I came back, there were noticeable improvements to the rooms and the landscaping.

But a nice facility is not enough to qualify for fish camp status. The fishing has to be better than good, it has to be excellent, at least seasonally. John jumped into fishery politics with both feet. Ultimately he became the president of the Almanor Fishing Association (AFA). He was instrumental in increasing the DF&W fish plants on the lake. He took over the net pen project which raised trout in pens using marina slips during the winter and releasing the resulting larger fish in the spring. He was also involved in trout rearing projects at the local high school and Feather River College. The years John and Deb devoted to the AFA paid dividends for all anglers who fish on Lake Almanor.

Years ago I had a conversation with another fish camp owner, Joe Mercier who owned the Trinity River Lodge. It was his philosophy that he needed to teach anglers how to fish steelhead on the Trinity. In order for his guests to want to return, they had to be successful in their quest for steelhead. John understood this as well and became a guide on the lake. Many of his guests started with a day guided by John to learn the lake, then used the knowledge gained on the rest of their multi-day fishing vacation.

There were at least two other professional guides, Bryan Roccucci and Matt Goodrich, who were based at Quail Lodge. They and their clients spent afternoons and evenings around the barbecue and beverage coolers expounding on their fishing prowess and the obligatory big ones that got away. There were also a few “gems” on how the fish were responding that day. With John and Deb as hosts, the atmosphere was always welcoming. There were no strangers at Quail Lodge, everyone was included.

Back in mid July another fire began in the Feather River Canyon. This one was pushed north and east toward Lake Almanor by hot dry winds. There were many twists and turns to the battle with the Dixie Fire. When I heard that Quail Lodge was hosting firefighters I thought that would be the key to keeping the flames at bay and saving the lodge. Then on Aug. 5 the winds were driving the flames up the river canyon below the Almanor Dam. As the flames crested the dam they spread east toward the town of Canyon Dam. When wind driven flames are on the move, there is no stopping them. Quail Lodge was lost that day to the Dixie Fire.

John and Deb are safe. The facility they poured their lives into no longer stands. I do not know what the future holds for them. At a week on, I doubt they know the direction their lives will take. What I do know is that hundreds of anglers will always remember the Fish Camp at Quail Lodge. The great fishing trips and the friends made.

John and Deb, thanks for the memories.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com

Author John Crotty, Colin Peirce and Tom Maumoynier with a single trout kept.
Provided photo
Tom Maumoynier netted a rainbow for John Crotty on Lake Almanor.
Provided photo
Deb Reynolds and John Crotty.
Provided photo
John Crotty at his Fish Camp at Quail Lodge.
Provided photo
Each year John and Deb organized and hosted the "Lake Almanor Veterans Fishing Day", where guides donated fishing trips on the lake for vets.
Photo by Jason Lai

Positive plague test results lead to closures in South Tahoe

The Forest Service has closed the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, Kiva Beach and their respective parking areas through Friday. (Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune)

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Based on positive plague tests and planned vector control treatments, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, Kiva Beach and their respective parking areas will be closed through Friday, officials announced this weekend.

The positive tests were found in chipmunks with no human contact, said El Dorado County spokesperson Carla Hass on Monday.

The Tallac Site, Kiva picnic parking area will remain open and visitor center staff and volunteers will be at the Tallac Historic Site. The Forest Service said vector control will complete its eradication treatments on Thursday and the areas will likely be reopened prior to the weekend.

According to El Dorado County Public Health, plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevations, and advises to be cautious around animals that can carry it.

“It’s important that individuals take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking or camping in areas where wild rodents are present,” said Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams in a press release last year when a person was the first in five years in California to contract plague. “Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious.”

Plague is an infectious bacterial disease that is spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. People can become infected through close contact with infected animals or the bite of an infected flea.

Officials say symptoms of plague usually show up within two weeks of exposure to an infected animal or flea and include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early.

Plague can be prevented by avoiding contact with these rodents and their fleas, and by keeping pets away from rodents and their burrows. Human cases of plague are rare.

For more information about plague, visit the CDPH website.

The Tahoe Daily Tribune is a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

Denis Peirce: Kokanee, the other salmon

Last Sunday was a smokey day in the Sierra. Heading for the east slope, the worst of the smoke was in the top few miles on the west side of Donner Pass. Colin and I were headed to Boca Reservoir to go kokanee fishing. We were fishing with Shaun Rainsbarger (Shaun’s Guide service). He had an early morning party that he expected to get limits for, by mid morning. We were going up to try out some new kokanee flies I have been tying.

Kokanee are a landlocked sockeye salmon. These fish have been planted in freshwater lakes since the middle of the last century and have proven to be the savior of summer lake fishing.

The heat of the summer is the toughest time of the year for trout fishing in lakes. The water is warm and the fish go deep. Yes, it is possible to catch trout but not in good numbers. On the other hand this is the peak of the kokanee season. These fish are feeding heavily preparing for their fall spawn and limits of fish are the rule rather than the exception.

The problem with California kokanee fisheries is the over population of these fish relative to their food source. Too many fish for the food supply results in smaller individuals. Theoretically the more fish we harvest, the bigger the remaining fish will get. The five fish limit has been raised to ten in Bullards Bar in an attempt to address the size issue there.

Kokanee are plankton feeders. They filter their food out of the water. I heard an interesting theory recently that years with heavy precipitation produce full lakes. This in turn creates maximum plankton populations and bigger fish. Low water years produce the opposite effect. Kokanee are planted by the DF&W but there is also a natural spawn that is hard to quantify. Balancing kokanee populations for maximum size is more of an art than a science.

Of the local kokanee lakes, Bullards Bar, Donner, Stampede and Boca, the best fish this year are coming from Boca. Bullards has been producing easy 10 fish limits since last winter but regardless of the number of fish taken, the size continues to disappoint. Stampede, which has a rich food chain, has not been putting out good sized fish. As a casual observer, it seems the water level in Stampede has been sacrificed to keep Boca in better shape. Maybe keeping the Little Truckee River flowing between the two lakes is another priority, resulting in better water levels at Boca.

Shaun’s second choice has been Donner Lake. It has good numbers of modest sized kokanee but Shaun has been able to land some big mackinaw occasionally this summer. A couple of weeks ago a 16 pound mackinaw was landed and successfully released back into the lake.

With the right gear to fish at depth, summer kokanee are willing biters. The keys to success are the correct depth, slow speeds and fluorescent colored lures or flies dancing behind a dodger. Shaun has this formula wired and can regularly put his clients on lots of fish.

Colin and I fished for a couple of hours starting at 10 a.m. By late morning the water skiers were out in force enjoying their day on the lake. The prime time for weekend fishing is dawn until mid morning. Yes, the flies did work. We landed seven kokanee and one rainbow trout in a brief time on the lake.

When we got home I filleted the kokanee salmon, brined them and they were in the smoker on Monday. If you like to eat salmon and don’t want to go all the way to the coast, we have an abundant supply in our lakes within an hour’s drive. If you don’t have your own boat, give Shaun a call (530-802-4484) and he will be happy to take you out and send you home with fresh salmon. You can also find him on the web.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com

Shaun Rainsbarger (Shaun's Guide service) ready to net Colin Peirce's first fish.
Photo by Denis Peirce
Colin Peirce with his catch.
Photo by Denis Peirce
Six kokanee, the day's catch.
Photo by Denis Peirce
Kokanee caught on a hot pink fly.
Photo by Denis Peirce

Denis Peirce: First week of valley salmon

The salmon season in the Sacramento Valley opened July 16. The reasoning behind a mid-July opening date is that it precludes fishing for the spring run salmon and targets the more numerous fall run fish. Late July is the lull between the runs.

Historically the spring run fish migrated up the river systems during the snow melt, which gave them access to the high elevations in the Sierra. This is why there is a Salmon Creek above Sierra City on the North Yuba. These fish summered in the deeper pools in the high country and spawned in the fall. The fall run fish arrive from August through October and spawn in the lower elevations. Both species spawn about the same time.

The salmon fishing season, both fresh and saltwater, is set in the winter based on salmon abundance surveys in the ocean. The degree of difficulty in measuring salmon numbers in the ocean is considerable. This past winter’s survey painted a gloomy picture, prompting a postponement of the ocean season from April to late June. I was prepared for a very poor season in 2021 but I am beginning to see some anecdotal evidence that things might not be that bad after all.

Last week I heard that the spring salmon run on the Lower Yuba was surprisingly good. Well over 600 “springers” were counted climbing the fish ladder at DaGuerre Dam which is halfway between the Feather River and Englebright Dam. The two previous years had dismal runs. This year’s numbers were a welcome surprise.

I checked with the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville and they have tagged 4,797 spring run salmon this season which is well within the 3,800 to 7,000 fish range they have processed in the last couple of decades.

Off the coast, the salt water season opened with terrific results and has tapered to a more normal level of success. The sport fishing fleet is landing salmon daily.

The Klamath River has salmon attempting to enter at the mouth, the warm water is causing them to turn around and go back to the salt. The Rogue River in Southern Oregon has good numbers of salmon in the estuary with good angler results in the cool tidewater. A friend just returned from a week fishing in Southeast Alaska. The salmon fishing was very good, following two years of poor salmon runs around the same resort.

Do these isolated data points portend a good salmon season? Not yet. The answer will come in November, but it is reason for hope.

Currently, in the valley rivers, the season opened with limited success, which is normal for the gap between the spring and fall runs. There have been salmon caught on both the Feather and Sacramento rivers. The upper reaches of both rivers have decent water conditions despite the drought. The irrigation water has the rivers running well above what nature would have provided mid July with triple digit air temps. The Feather River water is being drawn through the original “low flow channel” at 2540 cfs with only 450 cfs coming from the warmer After Bay. This has the water temps at Gridley ranging from 64 to 70 degrees over the course of a day. These are decent flows and temps for mid July.

On Wednesday, I went to the After Bay Hole on the Feather and spoke with some anglers. That morning the shore anglers had not landed a salmon. Nor had they seen fish rolling on the surface. The evening before there were a couple of dozen salmon seen rolling. There were five truck and trailer rigs at the launch ramp. The talk was of fair summer run steelhead results.

On the Sacramento River there are 6000 cfs flows around Red Bluff dropping to 5000 cfs near Tisdale. The water temps are 58 to 62 degrees near Red Bluff warming to 72 to 74 degrees at Tisdale. There have been a few fish per day being taken. Given the calendar date these are normal conditions and results. The proof will come in August and September.

It is my supposition that with the low reservoir levels and the river flows, the water managers are gambling on a wet winter in 21-22. If we have another very dry year, things will be even more problematic.

There is another opening day on the Sacramento River Aug. 1, from Red Bluff upstream to Deschutes Road Bridge. This includes the “Barge Hole” at the mouth of Battle Creek. The Coleman Hatchery is on Battle Creek, and the Barge Hole is famous for producing salmon.

News from the DF&W hatchery on the Klamath River: This is the first year since the Iron Gate Dam was finished in 1962 that the juvenile salmon were not released into the river in May/June. The drought conditions have made the river so warm and low that it was feared that this salmon age class might have been wiped out. Instead, about half of the 2,000,000 salmon were transported to other hatcheries to accommodate these fish as they grow from the current three-inch length up to six inches. They will not be released until the fall, when rains will raise and cool the river. The transported fish will be returned to the Klamath River hatchery for a few weeks before being released.

Part of the reasoning behind this investing of limited resources is the planned removal of Iron Gate Dam by 2024. This year’s age class will be the first to return with access to the spawning areas above the Iron Gate Dam site. I will be keeping my fingers crossed that we will get a good return in 2024.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com

Tahoe clarity report: Readings fall within average range

Lake Tahoe’s water clarity measurements, which are indicators of the health of the watershed, averaged 62.9 feet through 2020, the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency announced earlier this month.

Lake Tahoe’s clarity peaked in February 2020, when it was deeper than 80 feet. It was at its lowest in mid‐May, when it measured slightly more than 50 feet. These readings were within the average range of the last decade.

Average clarity in 2020 was just slightly better than the previous year’s average of 62.7 feet. Clarity has been measured by UC Davis researchers since the 1960s as the depth to which a 10‐inch white disk, called a Secchi disk, remains visible when lowered through the water. Because lake clarity measurements vary from day to day and year to year, managers and scientists remain focused on long‐term trends as an indicator of the lake’s health. Measurements show Lake Tahoe’s annual clarity has plateaued during the past 20 years. Despite this progress, summer clarity continues to decline by more than a half‐foot per year.

“While there is a good understanding of how fine clay particles and tiny algal cells reduce clarity, the biggest challenges are in reducing their presence in the surface water,” said Geoffrey Schladow, UC Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center director. “Here climate change, and in particular the warming of the surface water, is exerting an undue influence.”

A recent review of clarity data by the Tahoe Science Advisory Council reaffirmed the understanding of main drivers of clarity loss. The council commissioned a panel of scientists from regional academic and government research institutions, which concluded that fine sediment particles and algae continue to be the dominant variables affecting Tahoe’s clarity. They recommended that water quality agencies continue to focus on reducing fine sediment and nutrient loads.

Past UC Davis research and the council’s report pointed to several other factors affecting Tahoe’s famed clarity. Climate change is altering precipitation and snowmelt patterns, increasing the temperature of the lake, and impeding deep lake mixing. Such mixing in late winter can bring cold, clear water up from deep in the lake, which improves clarity.

In 2020, the mixing was extremely shallow and contributed to the lack of improvement.

“Adaptive management is crucial when confronting evolving threats like climate change, invasive species, and expanding visitation rates in the Tahoe Basin, but it is an approach that requires targeted data to assess response to changing conditions and management actions,” said Alan Heyvaert, past Tahoe Science Advisory Council co‐chair and Desert Research Institute associate research professor.

“This council report demonstrates the value of continued investment and innovation in sustained monitoring and assessment at Tahoe.”

DOCUMENTING CHANGES

Lake Tahoe is known around the world for its water clarity and cobalt blue color. Historically, clarity averaged about 100 feet. A development boom in the mid‐20th century brought about unintended environmental impacts, including reduction of the lake’s pristine clarity.

For decades, researchers have been documenting changes in the lake and the research has informed policymakers and stakeholders on management strategies to protect the lake and stabilize its decline in clarity.

In 2020, UC Davis scientists took 27 individual Secchi readings at Lake Tahoe’s long‐term index station. Using technology beyond the Secchi disk, researchers continue to refine their understanding of lake physics and ecology to determine the evolving causes of clarity change.

The states of California and Nevada are actively working to restore average lake clarity to its historic 100 feet. Under the Clean Water Act, the Lake Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load is a science‐based plan to reduce the amount of fine sediment and nutrients entering the lake by reducing pollution through improved roadway maintenance and erosion control on roadways and private properties.

More than 80 organizations, including government agencies, nonprofits, and research institutions, are working collaboratively with scientists to improve Lake Tahoe’s water clarity and ecological health under the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program, which is one of the most comprehensive, landscape‐scale restoration programs in the nation.

“Regaining Lake Tahoe’s water clarity is a commitment we all share, and together we are making a difference,” said Joanne S. Marchetta, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “While the long‐term clarity trend shows we are on the right track, we need to be vigilant about external factors and the role climate change and other threats are playing.”

The full report can be found at tahoe.ucdavis.edu/secchi.

Source: UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center

A UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center scientist reads a Secchi disk in Lake Tahoe.
UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center / Katherine Kerlin

Mary West: Exploring Granite Chief Wilderness, Five-Lakes Trail

Every summer I used to take my sons up to Tahoe for a hike in the Granite Chief Wilderness in the Tahoe National Forest. We park at the trailhead near the Alpine Meadows Ski Resort to the Five-Lakes Trailhead. The first mile or so is uphill with a few switchbacks to get you up high to enjoy the panoramic views. Once up and into the wilderness area, enjoy the sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. To fit the scene, my sons will start to sing a song like the opening credits to an epic adventure movie. They will then laugh at me as I take 20 pictures of the same flower. The variety of rock formations and native plants will make you wish you were a botanist or geologist and could identify all that your eyes survey.

Taking the drive along Interstate 80 to 89 to get to the Granite Chief Wilderness is well worth the time. The natural beauty near and far is spectacular. From the wildflowers and towering trees covered in bright yellow/green lichen, to sweeping views on the canyons, everywhere you turn is a picture-worthy sight to behold. The Five-Lakes Trail connects to many other trails in the 19-thousand-plus acres of wilderness area. The trail continues around the ski resort, or you can connect to the Pacific Crest Trail to the west or south.

Taking 10 to 20 degrees off valley temperatures is the number one reason I hike up high in summer. The other is the trails are passable where they often are not with winter snow.

Five Lakes Trail is a 4.7-mile day hike. This is a heavily trafficked out and back trail. Dogs and horses are also welcome.

The lakes don’t offer much in the way of beach area, but you can usually find a log perfect to sit and enjoy the view. I would call the hike moderate. There are exposed areas, so sun protection is advised. There is brittle stone under foot in some areas that could be a slipping hazard. Quick moving thunderstorms are also common.

On one visit, my youngest son found a pine tree that had the most wonderful citrus scent, like an orange (Concolor Fir). What a great way to learn about the world around us firsthand.

Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (2nd edition Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram

Taking the drive along Interstate 80 to 89 to get to the Granite Chief Wilderness is well worth the time.
Photo by Mary West
The lakes don’t offer much in the way of beach area, but you can usually find a log perfect to sit and enjoy the view.
Photo by Mary West
The natural beauty near and far is spectacular. From the wildflowers and towering trees covered in bright yellow/green lichen, to sweeping views on the canyons, everywhere you turn is a picture-worthy sight to behold.
Photo by Mary West

 

Portion of Pacific Crest Trail closed due to fire

 

The Tamarack Fire burning in Alpine County in eastern California has led Forest officials on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest to close a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. The fire is burning northeast of the trail near Raymond Peak (around mile 1060) in the Pleasant Valley Creek area.

The Pacific Crest Trail is closed between California State Route 88 and California State Route 4 (Ebbetts Pass). For reroute details, please visit the Pacific Crest Trail website at: https://bit.ly/3wNPoYD.

Failure to comply with closure may result in criminal and/or civil penalties, including up to $5,000 in fines and/or six months in jail. In addition, anyone found responsible for starting a wildfire can be held civilly and criminally liable.

The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and has attracted thousands of hikers. It is divided into five regions: Southern California, Central California, Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

Fire Information: Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7674/

For forest closure information, please visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/htnf/alerts-notices

Map of closure area.
Courtesy USDA