Rating the Carson River Aquatic Trail: 'Magnificent'

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal

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There's a new trail in town, one that adds another dimension to outdoor adventures. It's the Carson River Aquatic Trail. It begins at the Silver Saddle Ranch and winds down the river to Santa Maria Ranch with several put-in spots for boats along the way.

Friday was my first trip on the river, a trip I made along with some 20 other river riders. My rating of the route: "Magnificent."

Four inflated rafts made the trip, guided by Pat Fried, Lynn Zonge, John Cassidy and Kurt Sturgen. Fried's Great Basin Sports donated three of the rafts and Zonge supplying the fourth.

Not many locals have made the trip down the river. For a long time, there were few places to put a raft or kayak in the river. Kayaking was common, but rafting is new. There are some Class III rapids (big waves, currents, holes ) mixed in with some gentler chutes.

We started at Morgan Mill Road, about a third of the way down the trail. At first the river was placid and slow-moving for 9.3 miles. But after the bridge on Deer Run Road, things start happening. There are rapids of various difficulty for the rest of the trail.

"You've got to expect you'll get wet running this trail," said Fried. The waves wash over the inflated sides of the raft, but the water drains out quickly. She had some commands to offer rafters: "Forward one" means on stroke forward. "Forward" means keep on paddling. "Back stroke" means use the hip as a fulcrum and back stroke.

Some of the trail is bordered by privately-owned land, with some sections belonging to the BLM, Carson City or Lyon County. There aren't a lot of places to put in and picnic, but the scenery along the way more than makes up for that.

Well, most of the time. Wherever a road nears the river, thoughtless vandals have dumped everything from cars and trucks to old water coolers and sofas. A sad comment on some of us. With the trail being used now, cleanups are bound to come.

But from the naturalist's point of view, it couldn't be better. Trees line the river, cottonwoods and aspen. At times steep cliffs jut almost out to the river banks. And crests and saddles loom high above the river. Much of the rock is conglomerate, but there are shafts of granite much like the Devil's Post Piles at Mammoth.

There's little habitation along the trail until the river nears Dayton. It ends at the Santa Maria housing development. A dam downriver pretty much ends the trail for rafters. Anything downriver from here requires portages.

But the trail is enough for most of us. Not the Grand Canyon perhaps, but pretty grand and it's right in Carson City.If you'd like to ride the river, contact Fried at www.greatbasinsports.com on the Web. There are about three more weeks of good rafting before water levels drop.

The Aquatic Trail is a gift to those who love the Sierra Nevada. As they say, it's a gift that keeps on giving.

• Contact Sam Bauman at Sbauman@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1236.


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