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Martis Creek Lake - California Watchable Wildlife Viewing Site #130

Wildlife Viewing Area
Martis Creek Lake – Army Corps of Engineers

Martis Creek Lake is a California Watchable Wildlife Viewing Site. It is home to the rare Lahontan cutthroat trout as well as many other Sierra Nevada wildlife species.

Native Americans once roamed the Martis Creek Lake area before pioneers brought their wagon trains west, including the infamous Donner Party. The area still bears signs of a rich immigrant history including that of Chinese workers who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad and participated in the gold and silver strikes in the region.

Located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada crest, this lake is bordered by meadows, rolling sage-covered hills, volcanic outcrops, and dense conifer forests. The lake attracts Canada geese, American white pelicans, bald eagles, and osprey. Creeks shelter western wood pewees, nuthatches, and chickadees.

Raccoons and golden-mantled ground squirrels appear near the Alpine Meadows Campground which has twenty-five campsites available on a first come, first serve basis. In the mornings and evenings, watch the 'edges' where the forest, lake and meadows meet to see mule deer, soaring red-tailed hawks, and coyotes on the hunt. The lake was selected as California's first 'wild trout' lake and supports a trophy rainbow and brown trout catch-and-release fishery.

Martis Creek Lake is located 2.3 miles southeast of Truckee, California, off State Route 267. The lake, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also provides a focal point for a host of recreation activities including fishing and non-motorized boating. The Martis Creek Wildlife Area, on the west side of Hwy 267, offers a 4.3 mile hiking and biking trail that loops around the valley. The trail goes along Martis Creek, through conifer forests and open meadows. Spring wildflower displays are spectacular from late June to early July.

The trailhead for the 1,400-acre Waddle Ranch Conservation Area is at the end of Martis Dam road. From here you can access miles of forested trails throughout the Conservation area.

For more details about viewing wildlife in the Lake Tahoe region, and for links to a species list, visit

Best Months and Seasons for Viewing

Songbirds and wildlife are best viewed in spring and summer. Heavy snows limit access and viewing in winter months.

Nearby Places