Truckee River Watershed: North Evans Creek

North Evans Creek is the creek that you might not realize you’re seeing if you’ve wandered around Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno.

Flowing south from the Panther Valley area, this creek flows along North Virginia Street before entering Rancho.

North Evans Creek follows Evans Canyon Trail from Vista Rafael Way to the Nature Trail in the northern portion of Rancho, and under North McCarran Blvd. Once the creek passes McCarran, rock weirs capture the flows to create a wetland.

More on the wetland from the City of Reno’s watershed map: “This wetland was constructed to manage the higher flows coming down Evans Creek (in lieu of building a dam just above the Nature Trail across McCarran), allow pollution to settle out in the flat areas, and reduce flooding of Sierra Street.”

From there, the water makes its way to Herman’s Pond and the arboretum before it hits Evans Street and goes underground.

Herman’s Pond at Rancho San Rafael Park.

Once underground, North Evans Creek does not see the light of day before dumping into the Truckee River near Record Street. Quite the journey!

Similar to Chalk Creek, North Evans Creek used to only flow in response to snow or rain storms. With the urbanization of the Truckee Meadows, however, the lower portion of this stream and others in the area tend to flow year-round.

In the upper portion of North Evans Creek common vegetation includes willow, wood rose, cottonwood, service berry, Rye, crested wheat, tall wheat, Jeffrey pine, white fir and native wildflowers.

The lower portion of the creek is home to cottonwood, cattail, choke cherry, wood rose, Great Basin Wild Rye, rabbits foot, and invasive weeds (think tall whitetop, puncture vine, burr buttercup and more).

Regarding wildlife, along this creek you’re most likely to see coyote, jack rabbit, cottontail, marmot, raccoon, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, raven, and black-billed magpie to name a few.

Truckee River Watershed: Chalk Creek

Sitting up in Northwest Reno is Chalk Creek — one of multiple tributaries trickling down from Peavine Mountain and the surrounding hills into the Truckee River.

Prior to urbanization in the area, Chalk Creek flowed only in response to storm events. Once residential and commercial buildings began to appear, the lower parts of Chalk Creek began to flow year-round.

Taken off Crown View Drive. Here, Chalk Creek is flowing in a low valley between residential neighborhoods. Just around the hill on the left side of the picture the creek will pass under I-80.

The creek flows alongside many parks and walking trails in Northwest Reno; along Robb Drive, past McQueen High School, through residential neighborhoods, by Rainbow Ridge Park and through a valley, under I-80 and then under 4th Street (west of McCarran Blvd.) before it enters the Truckee River.

Chalk Creek is a dryer creek, and a lot of wildlife is drawn in by the water.

Some of the common wildlife found along this creek are coyote, jack rabbit, cottontail, marmot, raccoon, striped skunk, ground squirrel and chipmunk. Birds include red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, raven, and black-billed magpie. Closer to wetland areas might be Canada goose, mallard, American coot and northern shoveler, to name a few.

A wash area between Seventh Street and Daybreak Driver. During storms or snowmelt, Chalk Creek flows quickly through.

In the upper watershed, vegetation includes willow, wood rose, cottonwood. and service berry. Adjacent meadows are filled with grasses such as crested wheat, tall wheat, and bluebench wheat.

According to the City of Reno’s Truckee River Watershed map, Chalk Creek (and Mogul Creek) sits “on a unique geologic formation named the ‘Hunter Creek Sandstone Formation,’ which contains very high amounts of salts in the soil. Historically these creeks were dry most of the year, with water flowing only in response to rain or snow.

“Over the years, with population growth, new construction, paved roads and irrigation, the creeks are now flowing year-round! The increase in water moving into the ground through our lawns, parks and golf courses leaches the salts out as well. What does this mean? Chalk Creek (and Mogul Creek to the west) now contain very high amounts of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), a pollutant to the Truckee River.

“Have you seen crusty salts at the edge of the water? This is TDS, popping out with water seeps in the creek canyons, deposited near the water’s edge. TDS is bad for downstream wildlife, and bad for our drinking water.”

Below are some things you can do at home to cause less homemade pollutants in the Truckee River:

  • Consider using less water in your yard at home. That might include less grass and more shrubs on a drip watering system or making sure your sprinkler system is on a timer to avoid over-watering.
  • Wash your car at a car wash instead of in your driveway. Commercial car washes recycle their water and filter it before it enters the local storm drains. Washing your car at home causes soap and other contaminants to end up in the gutter and then into our creeks and river.
  • The less fertilizers used on your lawn, the better. Fertilizer is transported quite easily downstream thanks to clays. The fertilizer chemicals used in our lawns grows algae in the creeks and rivers downstream.

Truckee River Watershed: Dog Creek and Sunrise Creek

We lumped Dog Creek and Sunrise Creek together due to size and location — basically, Sunrise Creek is teensy and it’s right next to Dog Creek.

Dog Creek and Sunrise Creek sit up in Verdi, flowing down from the east-facing mountains between Stampede Reservoir and Verdi and into the Truckee River.

Dog Creek passes through Dog Valley, a beautiful spot in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest made up forests, streams and meadows. Once Dog Creek enters Nevada, it pretty quickly empties into the Truckee River.

Dog Creek emptying into the Truckee River. Photo taken from the Crystal Park Bridge in Verdi.

According to the Forest Service, “Dog Valley is… home to two rare plant species, Dog Valley ivesia and Webber’s ivesia. Dog Valley ivesia can only be found in Dog Valley.”

Other plant-life along Dog Creek includes mahala mat, silvery lupine, and chokecherry, shooting stars, delphinium, and Rydberg’s penstemon.

Sunrise Creek is just a bit upstream from Dog Creek, and thanks to its lack of activity, is an excellent habitat for wildlife and birds.

Sunrise Creek just before it passes under Bridge Street in Verdi.

Sunrise Creek drops down steeply from the mountains before it ends up in the Truckee River.

Riparian plants along this tributary include willow, cottonwood, alder, wood rose, service berry, choke cherry, rushes, sedges, horsetails and wildflowers.

Wildlife found around both Sunrise Creek and Dog Creek is similar across the entire watershed, and includes:  black bear, bobcat, red fox, rattlesnake, bald eagle, golden eagle, barn owl, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, pacific chorus frog, and monarch butterfly.

Truckee River Watershed: Dry Creek

We promise we won’t make any cliche jokes about how Dry Creek isn’t very dry right now……….

Dry Creek is a tributary of the Truckee River that starts in the Southwest Reno area (Lakeside/Holcomb Ranch), shimmies northeasterly past the airport and into Boynton Slough, where it joins Steamboat Creek on its road to the Truckee River.

Below are shots of Boynton Slough, which is fed by Dry Creek.

(Thank you to the Canada geese for modeling for us.)

The following plants, among others, are common along Dry Creek: Incense cedar, Jeffrey Pine, red and white fir, Pinyon pine, juniper, willows, Native rose, Russian olive, elm, and cattails.

Wildlife found is similar across the entire watershed, and includes:  black bear, bobcat, red fox, rattlesnake, bald eagle, golden eagle, barn owl, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, pacific chorus frog, and monarch butterfly.

The below pictures were taken off Sierra Center Parkway:

Its very own sign!
A close-up, featuring some snow.
Looking to Mount Rose in the distance.

Truckee River Watershed: South Evans Creek

On the Friday before Christmas, we headed to South Evans Creek to do some ‘sploring.

South Evans Creek drains from the foothills on the western edge of Reno. The headwaters emerge from alpine springs in vast meadows surrounded by dry forests, and trickle down canyons, through residential developments, through Bartley Ranch Park and into Dry Creek and Boynton Slough, where the water eventually ends up in the Truckee River.

In the upper South Evans Creek watershed, common plant-life includes Incense cedar, Sugar pine, red and white fir, Tobacco bush, rushes, sedges, lupine, phlox, and Arrowleaf balsamroot.

Down in the lower part of the creek, you’ll find Desert peach, Mormon tea, dogwood, Russian olive, broom snakeweed, Indian paintbrush, cattail, Medusa head grass, tansy mustard, and clover.

Wildlife found is similar across the entire watershed, and includes:  black bear, bobcat, red fox, rattlesnake, bald eagle, golden eagle, barn owl, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, pacific chorus frog, and monarch butterfly.

Taken on Range View Lane, looking west. The creek is flowing down from the western foothills of Reno.
Taken on Evans Creek Drive looking west.
South Evans Creek runs through the famous Bartley Ranch Park.
Bartley Ranch has tons of trails to roam, and some of those trails cross over South Evans Creek.

Truckee River Watershed: Steamboat Creek

One of the last tributaries on your way out of town (heading east) is the famous Steamboat Creek.

“Now how in the world is a creek famous?” you may wonder.

Well, around these parts, Steamboat Creek drains over 156,000 acres of land — more than any other creek in the Truckee Meadows region! Steamboat Creek starts down south at Washoe Lake and heads north, collecting water from Mount Rose, Southwest Reno, and the airport, and ultimately ends up in the Truckee River, right next to the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility.

The Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility (TMWRF) sits on the eastern edge of Sparks, just south of the Truckee River.
A view from the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, looking at the Truckee River. You can just see where Steamboat Creek enters the river. The Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility is on the left had side.
A closer look at where Steamboat Creek enters the Truckee River.

In addition to those 156,000 acres, water that cycles through the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility ends up very fresh and very clean and is put into Steamboat Creek to almost immediately enter the Truckee River. (More on that process here.)

According to the City of Reno, the thick algae growing on the surface on Steamboat Creek means agriculture waste, fertilizers, and/or carwash soaps are ending up in the tributary. Bummer.

Noxious weeds are pretty common along this creek, and in some parts these weeds are the only plant seen. This includes tall whitetop, purple loosestrife and musk thistle.

Wildlife found is similar across the entire watershed, and includes:  black bear, bobcat, red fox, rattlesnake, bald eagle, golden eagle, barn owl, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, pacific chorus frog, and monarch butterfly.

Photos below were taken farther south down Steamboat Creek:

A look at Steamboat Creek after it passes under Pembroke Drive in the Hidden Valley area, heading north to its final destination: the Truckee River.
The creek passing by RC Willey in South Reno.
The creek passing by RC Willey in South Reno.

Truckee River Watershed: North Truckee Drain

In an effort to explore not just the Truckee River, but more of its watershed, we’ve started visiting each tributary feeding our favorite river.

To kick things off, we chose the North Truckee Drain, located in the Sparks/Spanish Springs area.

Thanks to our friends at the City of Reno and this spectacular watershed map, we know this drain begins in the Wingfield Springs area in Sparks, and travels south by fields and pastures, through flumes and channels, along Sparks Boulevard, across I-80 and ends up in the Truckee River.

Taken at the intersection of Spanish Springs Road and Bria Circle.
Taken just north of the intersection of Spanish Springs Road and Bria Circle.
Taken at the intersection of Sparks Blvd. and O’Callaghan Dr./Springland Dr.

Wildlife along this tributary include (but is definitely not limited to) black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, red fox, rattlesnake, bald eagle, golden eagle, barn owl, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, pacific chorus frog, and monarch butterfly.