TRAVELS | August 12, 2014

Nature walk: Martis Creek Lake, CA

A brief hike near North Lake Tahoe

Carrie, Founder & Chief Wanderer

During my recent stay in North Lake Tahoe, I went on an easy 2-mile hike that follows along Martis Creek. Wanting to get in a little nature walk, my boyfriend’s Dad, my puppy, and I squeezed this adventure in before dinner. It was definitely worth the short trip out of town for a quick dose of the wilderness!

Martis Creek Lake has a unique and long history— all the way back to the pioneer days. Located in Truckee, CA the site was visited by migrants moving west, including the Donner Party. In 1972, a dam was constructed to create a watershed. Today, this dam is in danger. The dam is high risk; it is prone to erosion and vulnerable to earthquakes. At the same time, removing the dam puts Reno in danger of flooding. The Martis Creek Dam Solutions Initiative is working to resolve the issue, which you can learn more about here.

Despite the dam issues (no pun intended) the Lake has wonderful wildlife. Potential sightings include deer, coyote, bald eagles, osprey, and red tailed hawks. While I was visiting I was lucky enough to see five HUGE American white pelican; with a wingspan of 9 feet, it is one of North America’s largest birds. The white pelican travels from Canada and the US Midwest to winter in California. Beavers also inhabit the area, evidenced by several beaver dams along the river. Luckily, my boyfriend’s Dad is a beaver expert (yes, actually!) and told me all about their necessity during our walk. The beaver are an important species for the restoration of the creek, with the dams allowing the rivers to rise and allow the transition of sagebrush and dirt to a healthy composition of green grass and willow shrubs— the latter being better for wildlife forging. The lake also has rainbow and brown trout with a catch-and-release policy.

Located in Truckee, CA, just outside Tahoe off State Route 267, you can enjoy this creek from two locations. The Martis Creek Wildlife Area is on the west side of SR 267, with a 4.3-mile loop in the valley that follows the creek. While on these trails keep a look out for beaver dams, deer and wildflowers from late June to early July. Alternatively, the Waddle Ranch Conservation Area is at the end of Martis Dam road, with several trails and lake access. If you choose to visit the lake, non-motorized boats are allowed, as well as catch-and-release fishing. While visiting the lake enjoy the volcanic outcrops, birds of prey, and the coniferous forest.

Remember, while in Tahoe you don’t have to go far to get a taste of the outdoors!