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Rafting the Truckee gets a rapids start

The late rains, snow -- and now snowmelt -- have had a positive effect on one Tahoe-area recreational pasttime: whitewater rafting on the Truckee River.

On Wednesday, the gates of Tahoe City Dam were opened and water was released from Lake Tahoe into the Truckee, allowing rafting companies and their clients to hit the rapids.

"We're very excited to start the season early," said Tracey Murphy, manager of operations for Truckee River Raft Company, in Tahoe City. Usually it's closer to the Fourth of July weekend before the gates get open and rafts start heading from Tahoe City on a four-mile, 3 1/2-hour journey to the take-out point near Alpine Meadows. The 2005 opening was July 15.

Though Murphy's company took customers on the water Wednesday, she said the early opening took some by surprise. "We're actually scrambling right now for employees" to man the rafts, she said. In a more normal year rafting guides don't gather to begin to prepare for the season until mid-to-late June, she said.

The Truckee River Operating Agreement of 1935 regulates when the dam can be openened and when water can be released, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. Flows of 200 cubic feet per second are necessary.

Murphy's rafting company charges $32 for adults. Call (530) 581-0123 for information or visit www.truckeeriverraft.com.

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