15 Mile Drive Along The Little Truckee River

BY BUD NEVILLE / WON STAFF WRITERPublished: Oct 17, 2008


For some trip destinations, the set up is almost as good as getting there. Such is the case with Jackson Meadows Lake, which is the last reservoir in a 15 mile drive along the Little Truckee River after a westerly turn from Highway 89 north of Truckee.

Jackson Meadows Dam blocks the Middle Fork of the Yuba River, offering 69,200 acre feet capacity, 11 miles of shoreline and 96 surface acres.  The dam was completed and the reservoir first filled in 1966.

Wide, grassy meadows grace the river bottom, surrounded by majestic peaks, making for a pleasant drive on a good, paved road all the way to the lake. After crossing the dam, the road is gravel, but there is not necessarily any need for the visitor to go any farther than the first set of campgrounds and the primary boat ramp.

While the common access to Jackson Meadows uses the mild east slope of the Sierra (the Pacific Crest is just east of the lake), the lake itself rests on the west side. The terrain changes a little in the last couple miles before the lake as the road splits from the Little Truckee drainage. From mountain meadows, the terrain becomes rocky, with granite upthrusts and a more rugged countenance. The lake level is just above 6,000 feet in elevation.

Offering a rich biomass, this lake features premium trout fishing not only for catchable rainbows (about 10,000 pounds are planted each year), but for fingerling recruits. Both Eagle Lake strain rainbows and brown trout are planted as fingerlings here. The recovery rate of catchables is very high, which also indicates a trout-friendly environment.

Jackson Meadows offers great opportunities for both boat and bank anglers. The primary boat ramp at Pass Creek is large and easily used with plenty of parking close to the ramp. There is a floating boat dock, which is a luxury for most Sierra reservoirs. Boaters have the entire eastern and a portion of the southern shoreline of the lake to themselves, including a boat-in campground on the peninsula adjacent to Pass Creek. Trolling for trout is popular, with the usual offerings working for the browns and rainbows… either minnow-imitation lures like Rapalas, spoons, or flashers trailed by a threaded ‘crawler.

While boaters have a good deal, the shore bound are equally well treated at Jackson Meadows. First of all, the paved road continues past the main ramp to the dam, following the lake shoreline, never more than a couple hundred yards away. After crossing the dam, the road turns to gravel and runs along the western shoreline to the secondary boat ramp at the southwest corner of the lake near Woodcamp Creek. All the while, the road offers pullouts for shore fishing, and all within a reasonable hiking distance.

While road access might be critical for some anglers, fishability once on the water’s edge is important for all who choose to fish from shore. Much of Jackson Meadows’ shoreline is mildly sloping with sandy patches interrupted by granite boulders and rocky points. At the picnic-day use area near the entrance of Woodcamp Creek, there is a large beach that offers easy access and comfortable conditions for the entire family.

With over 100 campsites around the lake, finding a good one is not so hard, particularly since most command an $18 per night fee. The three campgrounds at the southwest corner were mostly empty when this writer stopped on a weekday evening in mid-summer.

The summer months are peak use time here, but the area is known as a popular snow travel spot. Snowmobilers often winter camp at the lake, or stay at private cabins located in the area. At that time, ice fishing is possible though not popular at the lake.

While Jackson Meadows offers good fishing opportunities, there are several other resources nearby that shouldn’t be missed. A premium fishery with special regulations exists below the lake and above Milton Reservoir. The Little Truckee River is a great trout stream and offers some public access. Beware of private property bordering the stream in some areas.

Two other lakes in the area that warrant attention are Webber Lake and Independence Lake.

Since Jackson Meadows is surrounded by National Forest lands, hunting is another good bet here. The lake itself is in zone D3, but deer hunters should pay attention to the X7B boundary to the east. Deer populations are fair. Mountain quail, some grouse, and tree squirrels are other game species available. Bears exist in decent numbers, and this would be a good area for hound hunters because of the comparatively mild terrain.

For supplies, Truckee is the best bet nearby. Sierraville offers some facilities, and is closer, but Truckee offers the nearest major chain grocery stores, gas stations, tackle supplies and motels. The lake is about 40 minutes north of Truckee… not because of distance, but because of the winding Henness Pass Road that splits from Highway 89 about 17 miles north of town. Jackson Meadows is another 15 miles west of the turnoff.


LOCATION/SIZE: Jackson Meadows Reservoir is located at the 6,000 foot elevation contour in Tahoe National Forest about 45 minutes from Truckee and Highway 80. The lake has 69,200 acre feet capacity, 96 acres, and 11 miles of shoreline. Latitude: 39.5090°N. Longitude: 120.5520°W

GAMEFISH:  Rainbow and brown trout.

FACILITIES:  Two boat ramps, over 100 drive-to campgrounds and 10 boat-in sites provides great access and good choices in campsites. There is a dump station near the Pass Creek facility. Truckee provides the nearest grocery, motel and fuel resources, though Sierraville has some services to the north.

CONTACT: Tahoe National Forest (530) 265-4531, DFG Region II (916) 358-2900, Mountain Hardware (530) 587-4844.

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