Truckee River - Source to Sea

From June 2nd-11th, 2017 Rivers for Change ran a Source to Sea adventure on the Truckee River as a fundraiser for a Source to Sea Educational Adventure with a team of Student Ambassadors.

With community support we raised almost $20,000 for Educational Outreach and the Student Ambassador Team!  As part of the Source To Sea Adventure, we hosted five public event days including four public paddling days on Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River.


The journey began on the Upper Truckee River and flowed into Lake Tahoe on the South Shore.  After crossing Lake Tahoe we paddled along the entire Truckee River from Tahoe City to its terminus in Pyramid Lake, Nevada.  We engaged communities and schools within the watershed and along the river through hands on interaction, educational events and paddling adventures.  We highlighted the unique ecological values and conservation efforts affecting the Truckee River and the entire watershed.


A small core team completed the entire journey, including several long endurance paddles and Class IV whitewater.

Core Team

Sue Norman

Sue Norman

Team Leader

A long time river enthusiast, starting at the tender age of 2.5 on family canoe trips in the Ozarks. In addition to a lifetime of recreational pursuits on rivers, she was also a member of several US whitewater kayaking and rafting teams, competing on rivers all over the world. Her accomplishments include winning the National Whitewater Kayak Slalom Championships in 1982, and several world championships as a member of the US Women’s Whitewater Rafting Team. In 2016, Sue retired from a 27 year career as a hydrologist with the US Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. During her career, she and her staff completed numerous watershed, stream channel, and meadow restoration projects throughout the Tahoe Basin (including the Upper and Middle Truckee River) in collaboration with a wide variety of state and local partners. She currently lives in Truckee, CA with her partner Lisa and her seven year old son Seth.

Jay Wild

Team Member

Although Jay grew up in San Clemente, California it wasn’t until he moved permanently to Lake Tahoe in 2005 that he fully realized his passion for paddling. Jay has quickly become a top competitor and a true “waterman” excelling in multiple ocean style paddle sports, and currently dominating in the Lake Tahoe SUP racing circuit. Merging his passion with his work, Jay and his wife Anik have founded a number of business ventures at Lake Tahoe providing paddling support and coaching including Waterman’s Landing Paddle Cafe, Paddle Elite Fitness, Lake Tahoe Waterman Association, and Jay’s most rewarding business, the Junior Tahoe Waterman Camp.

“I love watching kids progress from day one to day four. Kids adapt fast and if you make it fun but also show them some basic water safety and paddling skills it allows them to fully enjoy the water. And every once in awhile you get one that just falls in love with paddling whether it be SUP, outrigger, prone, kayaking or surfski and you can see them change and see them find themselves and that is so rewarding to me.” Although relatively new to paddling rivers, Jay will be attempting to navigate the entire Truckee River on a SUP, during the Truckee River StS Adventure. Jay and Anik currently live in Truckee, CA, with their 6 year old son Jaxi.

Over the past 3 months, three of our core team members (Judy Jensen, AD Fogg, and Morgan Hoestrey) had to drop out because of serious personal or family illness. Our thoughts are with them all for speedy and complete recovery. So Jay and Sue will be joined by a larger team of support paddlers that will join them on different legs of the journey to help provide safety and support to our student team and guest paddlers. This includes several skilled paddler parents of the student ambassador team, Swiftwater Rescue Units from the Truckee Fire District and the Reno Fire Department, and other skilled paddlers from the Truckee/Reno boating community. We are extremely grateful for this broad support from the Truckee watershed boating community!

Guest Paddlers

There were numerous opportunities for guest paddlers to participate on key legs of the journey.  They got to paddle the scenic west shore of Lake Tahoe, run fun whitewater between Tahoe City and Reno and floated through beautiful meandering meadow & wetland reaches.



The river stewardship issues affecting the Truckee River watershed from the headwaters around Lake Tahoe, CA down to its terminus in Pyramid Lake, Nevada are both complex and diverse. Two of the biggest environmental challenges in the watershed exist in the very top and very bottom of the watershed.

Lower end of the watershed challenges

Lower end of the watershed challenges, are more complex. Resolving the issues around legacy sources of pollution and the over allocation of water in the lower Truckee River watershed is still a work in progress. These issues affect a large number of stakeholders, with a very diverse and often conflicting range of interests, ranging from diversions to farmers in the Carson River drainage to sustaining native fish species in Pyramid Lake (the inland sea terminus of the Truckee River).

East of Reno, Nevada approximately a third of the Truckee River in a normal year is diverted into the Carson River drainage, to support irrigated agriculture. This diversion at Derby Dam, taking water out of one watershed to augment water in another watershed, was the very first water project in the nation implemented by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1906.  About 6% (in a normal year) is also diverted out of the Truckee river to provide drinking water to almost 400,000 residents in east Reno. Almost half of that is returned to the river after sewage treatment.

Upper watershed challenges

Upper watershed challenges around Lake Tahoe, reducing sediment and nutrient loading to restore Tahoe clarity, and controlling invasive species, are relatively well known, and have received a tremendous amount of state, federal, and local funding to address these issues. The work is not yet done, but the mission is clear, relatively non-controversial, and the programs and partnerships are mostly in place to achieve that mission.

Managing outflows

Managing outflows from Lake Tahoe and numerous reservoirs in the watershed to support a wide variety of interests is a delicate and complex exercise. Through both drought and floods, water flows are managed to maintain optimal lake and reservoir levels, provide river flows to support fisheries and whitewater rafting, prevent flooding to communities along the river, and sustain established water allocations for drinking water supply and irrigation. A more inclusive process for decision making regarding water flow management through the Truckee River Basin Water Group (TRBWG), is currently under development.


The contrast between the communities along the river are great, ranging from the very popular outdoor recreation communities of South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, and Truckee, the urban and industrial environment of Reno and Sparks, to the remote and relatively isolated community of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

There are numerous entities throughout the watershed working to restore and protect water quality and effectively manage water quantity throughout the watershed. The links below will take you to the websites of the river/watershed stewardship partners we are highlighting through our project, to connect communities to the issues affecting their back yard river. Please use these links to get informed and get engaged!