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Paddling the Truckee River: Downtown Stretch

If you’re looking for a short but fun packed section of the Truckee River to paddle or float, I have a great suggestion. Check out the stretch between the confluence with Donner Creek and the East River Pedestrian Bridge. It’s more fun and challenging than the booze cruise that starts at Tahoe City, it’s a little easier than the stretch from the Truckee Regional Park to Glenshire, and it goes right through downtown Truckee!

One of the best things about this stretch of the Truckee River is that the logistics are easy, making it great for a weeknight or after work paddle. From our house, Greyson and I can do the whole thing door-to-door in under 2 hours without rushing. We do this as a self shuttle (there are definitely no commercial crews running this short but sweet segment). We drop one car off at the gravel parking area near the pedestrian bridge at the end of East River Street in Truckee. Click here for a map of the location. Then we drive the car with our rafts and gear to the put in spot at the confluence of Donner Creek and the Truckee River, which is just a little east of the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park. There’s street parking near the confluence here.

The entire stretch is super fun – we always take our Kokopelli Nirvana packrafts on it, but you’ll definitely see people doing it on gas station floaties. For us, it’s been a great way to learn to paddle in features that are challenging, but aren’t super high consequence. The rating for this segment is Class I/Class II, but, like I said, plenty of people do it on innertubes. The stretch is just over 2 miles, and takes us around 30-35 minutes, which includes at least one stop to re-inflate our rafts when they get low.

Truckee River Float //

Another really nice thing about this route is that the take out point is super obvious and easy to manage. You’ll see the pedestrian bridge a good ¼ mile away, and when you get to the beach, you can easily paddle to the left bank and hop out. Even if you end up on the wrong side, it’s shallow enough that you can cross right there. There will most likely be toddlers wading there, even.

From there, it’s just a short walk back uphill to your car! While this Truckee River stretch is great for beginners, it can get pretty boney in the late summer/early fall, so be sure to check the flows. We like this Dreamflows Site, and we’ve had good luck when the flow is between 200-400. Have fun, and let me know if you like it!

Check out my gear guide for new paddlers here.

Route Stats:
Mileage: 2.1 miles
Time: 30 – 60 minutes (depending if you’re paddling or floating)
Difficulty: Beginner
Wašišiw Ɂítdeh (Washoe) Land
See my Strava Track Here

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Packrafting Gear List for New Paddlers

I am by no means a packrafting expert, but Greyson and I have been out and about on them enough to figure out some helpful gear for beginners.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review //

Obviously, the most important things are a packraft and a paddle. We both have the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-bailing packraft and the Werner Skagit 4-Piece Paddle. (Note: Werner appears to have discontinued this paddle, but the Kokopelli Alpine Lake Paddle seems pretty similar for $125.) You can check out my first impression review of my packraft and paddle here.

Since then, I’ve collected a few things that make packrafting more safe and enjoyable. First up, a personal flotation device (PFD) is critical, especially if you’re planning on doing anything more challenging than Class I. I bought the NRS Ninja which is unisex, not women’s specific. For me (broad shoulders, not a ton of boobs) personally it fits fine and is comfortable, even for long-ish paddling stretches. If you need a women’s specific fit, I’ve heard good things about the NRS Siren.

The BEST thing we’ve bought for our packrafts so far was the rechargeable, battery powered Kokopelli Feather Pump. While it’s not too hard to inflate the packrafts using the inflator bag the raft comes with, it is SO MUCH easier with the pump. It seriously takes less than 2 minutes using the pump, and it can be used to deflate as well. Sadly, the Kokopelli Feather Pump is currently out of stock, potentially until next year. It looks like there are some knock offs out there like the Go! Pump or the GIGA Pump that appear to have the correct adaptor, but I don’t have any personal experience with those ones.

Another product that has been super useful for setting up and breaking down the packrafts is the CGEAR sand mat in the 8’ x 8’ size. We’ve had the small version for years and used it mountain biking and camping to keep our feet clean while changing. The larger version is big enough to roll out the rafts and keep them a little cleaner, before and after paddling.

We haven’t taken the rafts on any overnight trips yet, but we have hiked in to access the water, and it’s pretty annoying to carry the rafts, paddles and miscellaneous gear in your arms. To help solve this and for future backpacking, we bought the Six Moon Designs Flex Pack. The Flex Pack is a lightweight, but strong fabric “frame” that a large dry bag fits inside. It’s also got various pockets and attachment points to hold and strap on gear. You can customize the Six Moon Designs Flex pack by choosing specific shoulder harness and hip belt sizes to get that perfect fit. Grey and I weren’t 100% sure on sizing, and he reached out to Six Moon Designs, and they were super helpful with making sure we got the correct sizes. So far, we’re loving the packs. They’re comfortable, versatile, and pretty easy to set up and pack. The one downside is that there’s not a great way to store an accessible hydration source. You can order the pack with a Six Moon Designs dry bag, which is 50 liters, comes with 4 lashing points, a roll top, welded seams, and a side air release valve. If you already have a dry bag you love, you can order just the pack.

Packraft Accessories //

For packrafting clothes, I typically wear a sunshirt and board shorts over a swimsuit. The sunshirt is definitely a must have – they’re lightweight, cool, and block the sun without needing to reapply sunscreen. I have and love the Patagonia Women’s Tropic Comfort Hoody. It’s even got a small zipper pocket that’s perfect for ID and a credit card! On the bottom, I like the Patagonia Women’s Wavefarer Boardshorts – they also have a zipper pocket.

Depending on how much walking I’m doing, I’ll wear either classic Chacos or the heavier duty Salomon TECH Amphib water shoe. Finally, we have a mesh duffel bag to store all of the bits and pieces of gear and packrafting accessories. The mesh is really nice, because it helps the gear dry out a bit more after packing. Ours is from Kokopelli, but it seems like they’re not making it anymore. There are lots of other great ones out there, like this one by Seattle Sports. If you’re having trouble finding one, try searching for “dive bags”.

I hope this gear list is helpful for those of you just getting into packrafting, like we are!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

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VIDEO: Packrafting on Donner Lake

The water level on our local rivers was pretty low this spring and early summer, so Greyson and I played around with paddling our Kokopelli Nirvana Whitewater rafts on Donner Lake. Can you packraft on flat water?

Check out my first impression review of my Kokopelli Nirvana Whitewater Packraft here.

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Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self-Bailing First Impressions

After talking about it for literally years, Greyson and I took the plunge this summer and bought packrafts! Specifically, we bought the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing ($1,200). We’ve had them for a few weeks now and taken them out a few times, and I’ve got a good enough feel to give my first impressions.

Kokopelli Nirvana Packraft Review //

Kokopelli Packrafts describes the Nirvana Self-bailing as:

The first-ever self-bailing packraft, the Nirvana is engineered to keep you above the water with our industry leading self-bailing packraft design, which allows water in the boat to drain automatically as you crush that rapid. Designed with a narrow trim, aggressive rocker on the bow, and a large-volume stern which the Nirvana performs best in Class 1 – Class 3 and offers excellent stability.

We did a lot of thinking about which specific model we wanted to buy before purchasing the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing. We knew that we wanted packrafts that could handle a little bit of white water, we wanted bottoms with some padding, and we didn’t want spray skirts. We also were leaning towards Kokopelli as a brand, mainly because REI carries it, and we both have REI rewards credit cards. We narrowed it down to the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing and the Kokopelli Rogue-Lite. We were initially leaning towards the Rogue-lite, mainly due to the lower weight, cheaper price and the fact that it is supposed to do better in flat water than the Nirvana.

Kokopelli Nirvana vs Rogue Lite //
Kokopelli Nirvava (top) and Rogue Lite (bottom)

My friend Kristen at Bearfoot Theory has the Kokopelli Rogue (which comes with a removable spray deck), and she mentioned in her packrafting the San Rafael River trip report that when not using the spray deck, they ended up having to frequently bail water. Once we took that into consideration and acknowledged that we probably won’t often do long slogs where we would be carrying them, we decided that the extra weight and cost was worth it for increased durability, the self-bailing ability, and the extra capability in white water. Along with the packrafts, we ordered paddles. We wanted ones that broke down into four pieces, and we purchased the Werner Skagit 4-Piece Kayak Paddle ($144) in size 220 cm, which is the size Kokopelli recommended to us. (Note: Werner appears to have discontinued this paddle, but the Kokopelli Alpine Lake Paddle seems pretty similar for $125.)

So far, we’ve paddled our packrafts on a lake, a mellow stretch of the Truckee River, and a rowdier section of the Truckee River. So far, I’m really happy with our decision to buy the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-bailing. First, it’s easy to get set up and inflate. The inflation system is pretty intuitive and goes much more quickly than I thought. We can get them set up in under ten minutes, and I imagine we’ll only get faster. You first inflate the floor and the raft most of the way using the airbag, then top off using your mouth and a hose attachment. Note: due to asthma, I struggle with this part, so Greyson usually has to do this. If you have breathing problems, you might struggle too.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review //

The seat is attached using straps and double D-rings, which I thought was pretty easy. There are also instructional videos to watch for the set up. One tip that I have is to set the seat much further forward than seems intuitive – you want some bend in your knees when seated. I ended up moving my seat forward several times the first time we took the rafts out.

As long as you’re decently athletic, the rafts are easy to get in and out of . I practiced “falling” out in the lake in water too deep to stand in, and I was able to get back in on my first try. As expected, the Nirvana doesn’t track very well in the flat water, especially with a bit of a headwind. I wouldn’t take this on a long trip on a lake, but it’s still fun to play around on.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review //

Our first river trip, we did the stretch of the Truckee River from the Truckee Regional Park to the Glenshire Bridge. This was maybe not the best choice for a maiden voyage, as it was rowdier than expected. I’m still learning how to paddle in moving water and I hit a lot of rocks, washed up on a lot of sandbars, and we had to get out and portage a particularly rocky section. I even fell out once! The Kokopelli Nirvana handled it like a champ, though. I was VERY glad we had bought packrafts with self bailing capabilities, because I’m sure I would have swamped several times without that. We’ve discovered that it’s important to top off the rafts once we put them in the water, as the air volume decreases when it gets cold. Depending on the length of the float, we have needed to top off again when the rafts start sagging. When I fell out, it was because I’d lost air, hit a rock, and the raft taco-ed.

For the second river trip, we went on the “Booze Cruise” section of the Truckee River, from Tahoe City to River Ranch. Now this section of the river can be floated in a gas station floatie while holding a Coors Light, so this turned out to be a great segment to get more comfortable on our boats. The packrafts tracked well through the moving water, even in sections with really low flow, and I was able to get a lot more comfortable steering. This paddle confirmed that the Kokopelli Nirvana is really stable in moving water – we were able to hop in and out easily when needed, and I hung my feet over the sides when I wanted to cool down.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review //

Once we finished paddling, we were able to easily pull up to shore both times. The packrafts are super easy to deflate and re-roll. The Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing weighs a little over 10 pounds and rolls to about 16″ by 12″, so it’s pretty easy to carry short distances, even with the paddle.  So far, I’ve just rolled mine up enough to carry in my arms and strapped it up using the seat straps. It can pack down to 12″ x 9″ x 6″, so for a longer walk, I could get it smaller and put it in a pack. After we got back home, we spread them out to dry before storing in the gear room. I like that you can store them rolled, so they don’t take up much room at all.

So far, I’m very happy with my purchase of the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing packraft! I really like how easy it is to get out on the water with just the packrafts, paddles, and a dry bag and quickly be having a great time. I think we’re going to purchase PFDs soon, for rougher waters and get the battery powered Kokopelli Feather Pump for front country paddling. While it’s pretty easy to fill the packrafts using the human powered bag system, this will let us inflate them in less than a minute with a cheap, easily charged pump. I’m really excited about this new way to get outside and enjoy the rivers.

If you have any packrafting suggestions – gear, routes, paddling tips, etc., please let me know!

Kokopelli Nirvana Self Bailing Stats:
Outer Length – 90 in
Inner Length – 57 in
Outer Width – 37 in
Inner Width – 15.5 in

Packraft: 8 lb 6 oz
Backband: 6 oz
Inflatable Floor with Integrated Seat: 1 lb 3 oz
Inflation Bag: 3 oz
Inflation Tube: 2 oz
Compression Straps: 2 oz total

Packed Size:
Folded- 12 x 9 x 6 in
Rolled Size – 16 x 12 in

Recommended For:
Rivers, Creeks, Extreme-Low-Flow (ELFing) – Class 3

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!