The chance to spend a hot day floating down the Carson River is something state officials would love to offer tourists and residents alike.
Chris Chrystal, media relations manager for the Nevada Commission on Tourism, told the Dayton Regional Advisory Council at its meeting last week that the commission wanted to design an aquatic trail for rafters and tubers.
The trail would begin at a section of the river near Silver Saddle Ranch in Carson City and extend to Dayton State Park.
"We see the Carson River not only as a great tourism attraction, but also a wonderful recreational attraction for Nevadans," she said. "The project would protect the natural beauty of the river and not leave it open to vandals and degradation. It would work in concert with goals for improving public safety, protecting wildlife habitat, fish migration and flood management. It would respect private property rights."
Chrystal said the decisions on the project would not be made by the tourism commission, but by local authorities.
The plan would include some work on several dams along the route and signage to indicate where rapids and other changes are located.
Lynn Zonge, a fluvial geomorphologist with Resource Concepts Inc. of Carson City, said there were class 1, 2 and 3 rapids in the river, but acknowledged that during some months navigation would be difficult at best. Also, dams used for irrigation are problematic.
"The problem with low rock dams is you can't see them until you're on them," she said. "And they can be dangerous. What happens with loose rock dams is people can catch their feet in the rock and the force of the water pushes them in."
Her company has created a map offering an aquatic trail showing access points, dams, mile markers, rapids and take-out areas.
Zonge said there were areas at the Santa Maria Ranch that would be good launching or take-out areas, and that other areas could be improved.
"You dream it, plan it, then you can get the money to fund it, then you can build it," she said.
Laura Tennant of Dayton was effusive in her support of the project.
"This is a wonderful project," she said. "Our children have nothing to do, and this would be perfect for them."
Some ranchers, however, are opposed to increased recreation on the river, Zonge said. At a recent meeting with members of the Dayton Valley Conservation District, she said ranchers expressed concern about liability, damage to irrigation dams and garbage left by boaters. The ranchers did not attend the council meeting.
Zonge said the final plan will include a section on liability, and she stressed she would work with all parties affected by the plan.
"The point that we have to remember is if we do nothing, there is still going to be people using the river," Chrystal said. "Ignoring it isn't going to make it go away, it will just get worse as we fill up that valley with subdivisions."
Chrystal said it was important to make the river safe to navigate and that to protect dams, signs could be installed along the river telling rafters to carry their vessels over the dam.
"Raft outings in increased in this country by 8 million in 2004," Chrystal said. "Making river recreation work successfully requires careful planning for the present and, importantly, for the future. If there are conflicting needs and uses workable resolutions must be found."
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