This image of the Truckee River was shot near Truckee, California. Different from other major California rivers that drop down from the west side of the mountains, it begins at the northwest side of beautiful Lake Tahoe high in the Sierra Nevada and gradually drops 120 miles to the east.
Crossing the Martis Valley--the meadows in The House on Harrigan’s Hill, the river rushes past the town of Truckee. It follows the opening in the mountains on the far side of town, dropping down the steep Sierra slope on the Nevada side toward Reno. It runs through Reno and into the hot, dry land northeast of Reno called the Great Basin, disappearing with highly-loaded silt runoff into Pyramid Lake.
The Truckee is shallow enough in summer and fall so volcanic rocks deposited millions of years ago make riffles on the river surface. It ran parallel to the railroad tracks and Truckee’s main street in 1910 and nowadays divides the old from the new part of town built up in the Martis Valley.
Long before the railroad outpost came into existence, the river afforded a seasonal route for Washo, Shoshone, and Paiute Native Americans to hunt, fish, swim and search for wild fruits and vegetables. It afforded a route for emigrants who first used the river as guide to enter California in 1844. Of course, frontier trappers had long caught and sold the abundant beaver fur found in the Truckee River Basin.
In the late 1800s the river was valued for moving logs to the saw mills. The plentiful supply of lumber in the mountains was highly prized, not only for railroad snow sheds and ties for the tracks, but to strengthen mine shafts. By the time of the novel, Truckee had been denuded, leaving stumps along the river as well as stumps in the alpine meadows and hills on all sides of the town.
The Truckee River freezes in the winter. At the turn of the century, blocks of ice were cut in the ponds, packed with straw, stored in warehouses, and used in the summer to cool freight cars, carrying the fruit and vegetable bounty from the Central Valley far along the transcontinental railroad to the rest of the United States.
Nowadays people in town and country find plenty of opportunity to hunt, fish, swim, and generally amuse themselves. Especially in the spring when the snow from stormy winters begins to melt, the river fills its bed and the current is swift and icy. It can be dangerous as depicted in Chapter 3 of The House on Harrigan's Hill. -original post 4-2011