Taylor Creek Ablaze with Color and Wildlife

October 4, 2022

This is truly one of Lake Tahoe’s finest hours.

If you haven’t been to Taylor Creek in South Lake Tahoe to watch the running of the Kokanee salmon, bears fishing and birds soaring below Mount Tallac, you’re missing one of nature’s most spectacular events.

It’s a rare moment at Lake Tahoe where we can watch nature up close. While a treat to witness, be mindful that you are in the bear’s domain now. Don’t be surprised if one walks right past you.

The Taylor Creek area is one of Lake Tahoe’s largest bird sanctuaries a flutter with birds and water fowl. According to local bird watchers, some of the birds spotted include the bald eagle, flicker, red-shouldered hawk, coopers hawk, downy woodpecker, mountain chicadees, white-breasted and pygmy nuthatches, steller’s jays, ruby-crowned kinglets, white-crowned sparrows, spotted towhee, audubon’s warblers, common mergansers, mallards, and a white-headed woodpeckers.

Too name a few!

To get an up close look at the salmon and stream environment above and below the water, be sure to stop by the Stream Profile Chamber, located 1/4 mile down the self-guided Rainbow Trail, where you can view a diverted section of Taylor Creek through a panel of aquarium-like windows.  Continue your walk through the aspen groves over to the Tallac Historic Site.

About the Kokanee
(Source: LTBMU website)

The Kokanee, landlocked cousins of the sea-going Sockeye Salmon, were introduced to Lake Tahoe in 1944 by biologists working on the lake’s north shore. These predecessors of today’s inhabitants quickly adapted to the alpine environment, joining brown trout, rainbow trout and Mackinaw among the most prominent game fish in Lake Tahoe. However, no other species in Lake Tahoe offers such a spectacular show during their mating season.

spawning.bmpEach autumn, nature calls mature Kokanee to return to the streams from which they were hatched, select a mate, spawn and die.

As that time approaches, adult males develop a humped back and a heavy, hooked jaw, equipping them for the inevitable battles over both mates and territory, and both sexes turn from their usual silver/blue color to a brilliant red. Then, en masse, the fish make one mad dash to their mating grounds, fighting their way up the shallow stream, displaying their colors to attract a mate, then battling to protect the small patch of gravel streambed where they make their “redds” or nests.

Kokanee Spawning Oil Painting by South Lake Tahoe artist, Shelley Hocknell Zentner