One of my family’s favorite fall activities is falling (pun intended) later in the season this year, which means there’s still time to check it out with your family! Every October we look forward to the salmon spawning at Taylor Creek (South Lake Tahoe). The red-hued fish wriggle and jump their way upstream to spawn, forming a carpet of fish across Taylor Creek. You can sometimes catch them jumping little waterfalls and doing everything in their power to get home.
Last year we attended the annual Fish Festival at Taylor Creek, which is supposed to be timed around the height of the spawning, and we were treated to a dazzling display of nature at work (video here). But the fish are arriving late this year, so while the Oct. 2-3 festival is long over, there’s still time to see the salmon. I took my family up to the creek Oct. 10 for my birthday (yes, we moms have to plan our own birthdays too, don’t we?) and a few fish had started their trek upstream, but the full swarm is still to come.
There’s a beautiful nature trail with interpretive signs along the way describing the habitat, flora and fauna of the area. Start on the Rainbow Trail at the Taylor Creek Visitors Center and follow the arrows that lead to the creek cut-out (Stream Profile) where you can walk below ground and see the stream from bed to surface. The trail is easy, mostly flat, and paved, so everyone from wobbly toddlers to aching elders can easily keep up.
If you want to make a day out of it, bring a picnic lunch and dine at the Visitors Center picnic area, or follow the Lake Trail down to Lake Tahoe and enjoy Indian Summer at “The Lake of the Sky.”
From the beach, you can walk west around a small meadow area to the mouth of the creek. Follow the creek upstream about 100 yards and you’ll come to a series of small waterfalls, and this is where some really fascinating fish action takes place. Be warned, though, this is also a great place for local bears to snag a quick meal, or so I’ve been told. I’ve never seen a bear right there, but this year’s visit to Taylor Creek did involve a bear sighting near the Visitors Center. A mama bear and her three cubs cut through the crowd making their way to higher ground. I’m pretty sure that all us camera-snapping tourists were more terrifying to the bears than they were to us.
Taylor Creek is on the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, just a mile or two from Camp Richardson. It’ll take about an hour and a half from Reno: Take 580 to Carson City, then continue west on Highway 50 to South Lake Tahoe. At the “Y” you’ll turn right onto Highway 89 and turn int at the Taylor Creek Visitors Center, which will be on your right. Parking is free, and the lot is pretty big but be prepared to park on the highway if the lot is full.