Carson River and its Tributaries

The Carson River and tributaries carries snowmelt from the eastern Sierra to the Carson Sink near Fallon, NV.  The east and west forks of river meet on River Fork Ranch in the Carson Valley to form the main stem of the Carson River. The Carson River runs northeastly to Lahonhan Reservoir and then to the Carson Sink. The headwaters of the East Fork are mostly within the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The headwaters of the West Fork are above Hope Valley and Faith Valley.

Fishing on the main stem is generally limited to the areas near parks, such as the Carson River Park in Carson City and the Dayton State Park in Dayton that are occassionally stocked with rainbow trout. Some segments of the main stem hold bass and catfish.

The main stem has a few fishable small tributaries. Both Ash Canyon Creek and Clear Creek hold rainbows and brookies. Ash Canyon Creek can be accessed using Ash Canyon Road in Carson City. Clear Creek can be accessed using Old Clear Creek Road, also in Carson City.

See Carson River Basin Still Waters for still waters in this basin.

East Fork of the Carson River in Nevada

East Fork Carson River in Nevada is most commonly fished in the broken dam area. This area is named after remains of the Ruhenstroth Dam, which was used ages ago to generated power. The area parallels River Rock Road and Washoe Road, providing convenient access a mile of well stocked waters. You'll find plenty of willing rainbows and browns to catch here.

Productivity on the East Fork reduces as you move further downstream from the broken dam area as the flows get thin and the water temperature rises.

While the section from the stateline downstream to broken dam can fish well, extended periods of drought have taken their tolls over the years. The section can be accessed using various 4x4 roads in the area.

East Fork of the Carson River in California

There are four sections of East Fork Carson River in California:

The lower section was designed in 1989 as a Wild and Scenic River by the State of California. It holds some large rainbows and browns and can be accessed from Hangman's Bridge area, from the Markleeville airport, and from various 4x4 roads.

The middle section is a put-n-take fishery. Here you'll find stocked rainbow trout and the occasional wild brown trout. This section can be access off CA 89, CA 4, Wolf Creek Road and Dixie Mine Road.

The wilderness section holds wild rainbows, browns, and brookies. The lower end can be accessed off using Dixie Mine Road. The remainer is within the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness and hence is going to require a bit of hiking to get into.

The headwater section and its tributaries hold Lahontan cutthroat trout. This section is closed to fishing.

Tributaries of the East Fork of Carson River

The tributaries of the East Fork Carson River offer a lot of great fishing. The lower elevation streams will typically have rainbows and browns while the upper elevation streams will typically have brookies. Below a few are highlighted.

Markleeville Creek and its tributaries Markleeville Creek runs from the confluence of Hot Springs Creek and Pleasant Valley Creek down to the East Fork. Portions on public land are stocked with rainbows trout and can be from various points in and around Markleeville, including the Heritage Park and Markleeville Campground. Hot Springs Creek can be accessed using Hot Springs Road. Charity Valley Creek, a tributary of Hot Springs Creek, can be accessed using Blue Lakes Road. The upper portions of Pleasant Valley Creek and its tributaries can also be accessed using Blue Lakes Road and Sunset Lakes Road. While most of the lower portions of Pleasant Valley Creek are on private land, a small stretch is on public lands and can be accessed using Pleasant Valley Road.

Silver Creek and its tributaries - Silver Creek is the outlet creek of Lower Kinney Lake. Its confluence with the East Fork is at Centerville Flat. The Alpine Highway (CA-4) provides easy access to Silver Creek, as well as some of its tributaries, including Noble Creek and Kinney Creek. The lower portions of Silver Creek are stocked with rainbows.

Wolf Creek offers nice brookie fishing. It can be accessed using Wolf Creek Road off of CA-4. Venture upstream, into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, to access less frequented waters, using Wolf Creek trail.

Silver King Creek and its tributaries - The threatened Paiute cutthroat trout is native to the Silver King and its tributaries below LLewellyn Falls. Over a hundred years ago, basque sheepherders transplanted Paiutes above the falls Subsequently, the lower population below were hybridized by rainbows, Lahontan cutthroat, and cutbows. The upper population was subsequent transplated into many other headwater tributaries in the area, as well as into Cottonwood Creek and Cabin Creek in the White Mountains Wilderness.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation of various other agencies and organizations, has a restoration project under way to eliminate non-native fish in the Paiute's range and restock it Paiutes transplanted from the White Mountains. Hopefully we'll be able to fish for Paiute cutthroat again some day.

Pleasant Valley Creek
Charity Valley Creek, a tributary of Hot Springs Creek
Silver King Creek
West Walker River

West Fork of the Carson River

The West Fork Carson River offers great nearby fishing! One can always find Rainbows in the canyon section from Woodfords to Hope Valley. Hope Valley itself tends to get heavily fished, especially in areas near the highway or adjacent to Blue Lakes Road. The canyon section, between Hope Valley and Woodfords, fishes well. These areas are also heavily stocked. Brookies can be found in Faith Valley and above. Portions of the West Carson and its tributary Willow Creek are within the Hope Valley Wildlife Area.

Tributaries of the West Fork of Carson River

Tributaries of the West Fork Carson River offer good fly fishing for brook trout. Below a few are highlighted.

Forestdale Creek is a headwater tributary of the West Fork. It can be accessed using Forestdale Road from Carson Pass Highway (CA 88) at Red Lake. 4x4 recommended. Portions of this creek are within the Red Lake Wildlife Area. 

Red Lake Creek is the outflow creek of Red Lake. It parallels CA 88 between Red Lake and Hope Valley. The public lands to the east of CA 88 offer nice meadow and alpine sections. Portions of this creek are within the Red Lake Wildlife Area.

Willow Creek drains into the West Fork at Pickett's Junction. It can be accessed from can be accessed from Luther Pass Road (CA 89). Portions of this creek are within the Hope Valley Wildlife Area.

Red Lake Creek

This article was authored by Kurt Zeilenga. If you have suggestions on how to improve this article, you may contact Kurt at

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