Independence Lake Preserve

In 2010, The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the Truckee Donner Land Trust, the Northern Sierra Partnership, and several other conservation partners, acquired a large portion of the property surrounding Independence Lake. The property was acquired from NV Energy, which with its predecessor Sierra Pacific Power had held the 2,300-acre property since the late 1930s. This acquisition supplements the nearly 2,000 acre acquisition the Land Trust made in 2006 and completely protects the entire Independence Lake watershed. The area had been used by native Americans for at least 9,000 years but was not discovered by Euro-Americans until 1860, when Augustus Moore visited the lake in connection with building a stage stop business on nearby Henness Pass Road. In the 1970s, the lake and surrounding mountains were targeted for a major four-season resort development, which, fortunately, never came to fruition.

Today, the 2.4 mile lake, at an elevation of 6,949 feet, is noted for its pristine location and for being home to one of only two, self-sustaining lacustrine populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout. In addition, the lake is part of the headwaters of the Little Truckee River, a major tributary of the Truckee River, which among other things supplies drinking water to northern Nevada, including Reno and Sparks. NV Energy has committed $1.4 million for investments into the Lahontan cutthroat trout recovery program at the lake.

Independence Lake Map May 2016


Cool Factor

Until its acquisition in 2010, the property had been in private hands with very few improvements other than a dam to increase water storage capacity and a modest campground. It’s the only lake on the East-slope of the Sierra to retain all native fish species and a habitat that is largely free of aquatic invasives. It is also one of the few places in the Sierra to fish for very large Lahontan cutthroat Trout, Brook Trout, Brown Trout and Kokanee Salmon (Lahontan cutthroat are catch-and-release only).

What to Do There

  • Trails for hiking, mountain biking and trail running; fishing; paddling; bird and wildflower viewing; picnic tables. All facilities are conveniently located at the Northeast end of the lake and are very close to the parking area.
  • Watercraft is available for use on the lake from June through October on a first-come, first-served basis. The watercraft consists of sit-on-top single and tandem kayaks, pontoon float tubes, and small motorized boats. Kayaks and float tubes are available beginning Memorial Day weekend, through October 1st. Motor boats (14’ aluminum with 9.9 hp outboard motors), are available every other week during that same period. All boats are available to the public at no-charge. Donations are appreciated. (Note that outside watercraft is not allowed  for aquatic invasive species prevention. Please take advantage of the boats we make available to the public!)
  • Please check The Nature Conservancy website for wind and weather conditions and more!
  • Click here to download the motorboat availability schedule!
  • A 2.6 mile trail follows the lakeshore from the parking area to the head of the lake. Along the road, numerous wildflowers and birds can be seen. 
  • Fishing is available from boat or from shore. Refer to California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations specific to Independence Lake for up-to-date regulations on limits of fish and tackle.
  • Picnic tables are located along the north and east shores in select locations. Please note: You are in bear habitat and must not leave food out in the open.

How to Get There

From Hwy 89, about 17 miles North of Truckee, follow Jackson Meadows Road west 1.5 mi. Turn left/South at the sign for ‘Independence Lake – 5 miles’. After about 2 miles, the road forks and a sign indicates ‘Independence Lake – 3 miles’ to the right. After an additional half mile, the road forks again, follow the left fork across a stream and continue to Independence Lake and the directional signs to the parking area.


  • No boats, float tubes or paddlecraft from outside the Preserve are permitted, as part of the aquatic invasive species prevention program
  • All footgear you plan to use in the lake must be washed at our wash station before you enter the lake. No felt-soled wading boots are permitted
  • Please check The Nature Conservancy website for wind and weather conditions and more!
  • Click here for the motorboat schedule.

Other Land Trust and Conservation Partner Properties in the Area

Independence Lake is one of five properties in the upper Little Truckee River Watershed that have been conserved by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and/or its conservation partners.

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