One of the grandest conservation victories in the Truckee Donner region was the protection of Independence Lake, acquired by The Nature Conservancy and the Truckee Donner Land Trust in April 2010.

Independence Lake is a spectacular sub-alpine lake 7 miles north of Truckee as the crow flies. Over the course of the last 50 years, it has been threatened by development and closure. In the 70s, the Disney Corporation attempted to buy the lake and convert it into a gated, high-end condo development. More recently, in a little-known saga, a Silicon Valley billionaire tried to add the lake to his personal empire for $22 million. And finally, the previous owner had - over the past decade - arbitrarily closed public access to the lake, and when open, provided sub-standard facilities.

Roughly the size of Donner Lake, Independence Lake also hosts one of the last remaining wild and native populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) in the world. The LCT is the only indigenous trout in the Truckee basin. Over the past century, once thriving populations of LCT have been decimated by the introduction of non-native trout and habitat degradation caused by logging and development. In partnership with federal and state agencies, efforts are underway to protect this mighty fish and substantially increase its numbers.

In June, the LCT spawn up Independence Creek at the west end of the lake. Tim Sienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, "It's like a scene in Alaska or Yellowstone, and there's nothing else like it in California."

Now the Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy are readying the property for what we hope to be substantial use and enjoyment by the public. The official opening is June 26th. A new parking area is being constructed along with a day use area with interpretative kiosks. Later, a walk-in campground and multi-use trail connecting to the popular Mt. Lola Trail will be added.

But beyond all of its intrinsic conservation value, the Independence Lake acquisition will link important prior purchases by the Land Trust and The Northern Sierra Partnership, resulting in more than 15 miles of contiguous lands now open to the public. Independence Lake, in conjunction with other conservation efforts completed and underway in the Little Truckee River watershed, will result in the ultimate protection of more than 17,000 acres.

For more information, please contact Perry Norris (, Executive Director.

The Nature Conservancy in California - Conservancy purchases Independence Lake from NV Energy (
Truckee Donner Land Trust (

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last updated 12 June 2010