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Reno / Tahoe Water Play

Play it Safe in Cold Reno / Tahoe Rivers & Lakes

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Reno Truckee River water safety Nevada

Reno Fire Dept. WET Team at the Reno River Festival

Photo © Stan White
The Reno / Tahoe combination of high elevation and hot summers results in some rigorous outdoor conditions. The arrival of summer heat doesn't necessarily mean area waters have warmed up. Learn how this works and your visits to area lakes and rivers will be enjoyable rather than tragic.

Water Play Facts & Safety

  • Summer temperatures in the 90s are common, with an occasional trip above 100 degrees.
  • Truckee River temperatures can range from near freezing in winter to the 70s in summer.
  • Summer temperatures at Lake Tahoe seldom exceed 90 degrees.
  • Lake Tahoe surface water temperature in the summer is 65 - 70 degrees, 40 - 50 in the winter.
  • Pyramid Lake surface water temperature in summer averages 75 degrees, 43 in winter.
Truckee River water comes from snowmelt. Just because it's hot in Reno and Sparks doesn't mean the Truckee River is warm as well. It runs swift and frigid in spring, presenting hazards that may not be obvious to those seeking relief from the heat along its banks.

Every year starting in spring, the Reno Fire Department Water Entry Team (WET) starts pulling people out of the Truckee River. The lucky ones are just wet, but those who are in the water long enough suffer from hypothermia and require transport to a hospital. The really unlucky ones end up drowning or dying from exposure to the cold water. Being a good swimmer won't save you if you become hypothermic.

Here are some water safety tips specific to conditions along the Truckee River through Reno and Sparks:

  • Don't tempt fate; stay out of the river when it is flowing high and muddy. You will be overcome by the power of the water.
  • Avoid hypothermia by not staying in the water for long periods of time.
  • Keep children under close supervision whenever near the river.
  • Never let children enter the river alone, even if you are nearby. Children should always wear personal floatation devices (PFDs) when entering the water.
  • Walkers and joggers should stay on established paths and away from the water's edge.
  • If you do fall in, do not try to stand up. If a foot gets caught in the rocks (a situation called foot entrapment), the water will push you over and hold you under. Instead, assume a defensive swim position by floating on your back with feet pointed downstream while working your way toward shore.
  • If you see someone fall in, call 911 immediately. Do not enter the water yourself to attempt a rescue. If available, throw the person a rope or object like an inflatable water toy to help them stay afloat.
  • Kayakers and rafters should check water conditions before embarking and ensure all gear and safety equipment is in good functioning order.

River Play Rentals and Tours

Rental equipment and guided tours are available for those wanting to play at Reno's downtown Truckee River Whitewater Park. Check out my pictures of water play at Wingfield Park to see some of the fun to be had. Source: News releases from Reno Connect notification service.
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