Rare Sierra valley closed for a century returned to public use

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TRUCKEE, Calif. (KOLO) -- Untouched for a hundred years, a valley just outside Truckee is returning to public use.

“It is the closest to wild you are going to get this distance from civilization,” said Sam Zabell with Truckee Donner Land Trust.

For decades, Lower Carpenter Valley has sat undisturbed. It is one of the only places in our area left alone and allowed to flourish.

“It has been allowed to exist as it would have hundreds of years before human settlement,” said Zabell.

The valley is comprised of a forest on both sides and a meadow in the middle. Over the years, this valley has developed its own unique ecosystem. Part of what is so special about Carpenter Valley is the north fork of Prosser Creek. It has been untouched for years, which has allowed plant and animal life the flourish.

“What it creates is a lot of very dense, woody, leafy area which is good for all manner of wildlife,” said Zabell

Throughout the 1300 acres, wildflowers are in bloom through much of the summer, rare birds make their home in the willow forest and the endangered Lahontan Cutthrout trout may still survive in the creek.

“It is a very unique ecosystem that we just don’t have a lot of left in this area,” said Zabell.

Since the early 1900s, the property has been owned by the Carpenter family, which kept it closed the public, but recently it was purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy for $10.3 million.

“It gives us an opportunity, really, to preserve biodiversity alongside opening a property for public access that previously has remained private,” said Zabell.

Of course, reintroducing people to this undisturbed area comes with its risks. That is why the public won’t have unrestricted access to the valley. Instead, the land trust is offering guided hikes.

“It is one of our best opportunities to be able to preserve open space as it always was,” said Zabell.

Carpenter Valley, now protected, should be available for public use for generations.