The Truckee River Source to Sea Educational Paddling Adventure is a unique adventure-based learning experience for school kids.  In June of this year we completed our 2nd adventure with a fourteen-member Student Ambassador Team.  Four ambassador mentors returned from 2017 and ten new students joined the team, representing six different middle schools in the Truckee River watershed.  Students spent six days paddling the Truckee River and learning about its significance from beginning to end.By the end of the program, Student Ambassadors are prepared to share their experiences and knowledge gained from exploring the Truckee River Watershed with peers from their schools.  In the programs first year, Student Ambassadors reached over 1,100 other kids after their adventure.During the spring of 2018, Rivers For Change hosted three on-shore learning events with the South Tahoe Middle School, Sierra Expeditionary Learning School, and North Tahoe Middle School.  115 students participated in these on-shore learning events, which included hands on learning exercises and presentations related to water based recreation, safety, stream channel restoration, water supply allocations, water use management, and water quality.

In the first part of the journey, students explored the upper watershed, including the Upper Truckee River on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, and the Truckee River near Truckee, CA.  During the second leg of the adventure the team traveled the lower watershed from Reno, NV to the inland sea terminus of Pyramid Lake. During the exploration the team utilized a wide variety of recreational water craft including kayaks, paddle cats, outrigger canoes, stand-up paddle boards, whitewater rafts, surf-ski’s, and prone paddle boards. During each day of exploration the team met with a variety of partners to learn about ecological values and conservation efforts affecting the river, within the context of the entire watershed.

During two days of the exploration the 14-member student team participated in hands-on stewardship consisting of a beach clean-up on Lake Tahoe (coordinated by the League to Save Lake Tahoe)  and a river cleanup on the Truckee River below Reno.  Both clean up days had a powerful impact on the team. During the first clean-up day along a ½

mile stretch of Lake Tahoe shoreline, the collected trash consisted mostly of many small pieces of plastic and over 170 cigarette butts. Student Ambassadors learned about the pervasive nature of plastic, its longevity in the environment, and the harm it presents to the environment.  Students also spent time with an AmeriCorps volunteer from the Tahoe Environmental Research Center learning about efforts to restore and monitor Lake Tahoe water clarity.

Lower down the river, the team witnessed and learned about the nature of trash on the river created by large urban areas, including homeless encampments. Two rafts and five inflatable kayaks were filled to capacity with garbage about 2/3 of the way through a 7-mile stretch of river.  Six adult volunteers joined 13 members of the student team during this full day trash cleanup which yielded rubber tires, an industrial size recycling trash can, many plastic bag “blossoms”, cans & bottles, broken pieces of styrofoam, pieces of plastic, and old clothing. The team also found several perfectly good treasures partially buried in deposited sediments and covered by riparian vegetation including a soccer ball, a helmet, a cooler, and a kayak!  The entire team was astounded by the sheer magnitude and wide variety of trash trapped in the river banks and floodplain. At the end of that day, the team met with an AmeriCorps volunteer working with ONE Truckee River to learn about larger community efforts in Reno to perform ongoing river clean-ups, education, and to address the problem of homeless encampments along the river.

The Truckee River Source to Sea Environmental Paddling Adventure relied heavily on local river and watershed stewardship partners to provide the learning component of our program. This year’s partners included the US Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), Balance Hydrologics, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, ONE Truckee River, The League to Save Lake Tahoe, The Nature Conservancy of Nevada, and the North Tahoe Fire Protection District.

Rivers For Change sends out a gigantic THANK YOU to our sponsors, who helped us with financial and in-kind support.  Thank you IRIE River Rafting, Tahoe Whitewater Tours, Big Water Event Media, The American  Canoe AssociationBalance Hydrologics, Waterman’s Landing, Remick & Associates Master BuildersWagner & Bonsignore Civil Engineers.

Lastly, we need to congratulate and thank our Program Director Sue Norman, our volunteer board of directors, visiting scientists, educators and parents for helping to make this year another success – thank you!

Check out some fun videos from the adventure!