We all travel to Lake Tahoe to take advantage to the endless recreational activities amidst the breathtaking landscape and the crystal clear waters. Whether your an avid paddler or a first timer, it is important to prepare carefully for your trip and be play it safe. Below are some safety tips for paddling on Lake Tahoe.
1. Go Early
Avoid the afternoon wind conditions. It is very common that the winds will pickup on Lake Tahoe between 11am and 1pm and last through sunset.
2. Be Aware of Wind Direction
You may want to consider your launch site in reference to wind and weather conditions. When on land its best recommended to be on the west shore for sunrise and the east shore for sunset, when planning recreational activities this is most commonly opposite. Yes, that does mean kayaking for sunset is not always a good idea.
3. Choose the Right Vessel
While some kayaks are suitable for choppy water and currants, others might not be. Keep in mind the design of your boat and whether or not is self-bails before embarking on your journey. Recreational paddle vessels with a flat bottom might not function in strong currants while vessels with a defined hull would be much better suited in these conditions. Sit-on-top kayaks and paddle boards won’t hold water in while a canoe might fill up like a bathtub when waves are present. Always make sure you have a bilge pump available for boats that are not self-bailing.
4. Check the Weather
Free apps like Windfinder can be used as quick reference tools when attempting to determine the best conditions for paddle sports. These resources generally break down the forecast and show details like time, duration, direction and max gusts. Keep in mind, the winds can change pretty rapidly in the Lake Tahoe basin.
5. Make a Plan
Lake Tahoe is big, really big. Many sections of shoreline may be rocky or private. Make sure to map our your plan and ensure you will have opportunities to stop for breaks. Useful Watertrail Maps can be found online or at many local outdoor sports shops like Sports LTD.
6. Pack Accordingly
ALWAYS. Always pack a US Coast Guard approved life preserver. These are required by law to have on your vessel however, it is best recommended to wear it during your time on the water. Those PDF tan lines are evidence you did something epic during your time in Tahoe.
7. Tell Someone
Regardless of if your embarking solo or with a buddy it’s always important to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. If you end up stranded it’s nice to know someone will come looking for you… And your buddy.
8. Stay Near Shore
It may be tempting to paddle across the lake but similarly to a mirage, distance can be deceiving especially when the surrounding mountains are about 1,900 ft tall. Attempting to paddle to them might not be the best idea. Its safer and much more enjoyable to paddle along the shoreline, this is typically where your going to see all the cool stuff such as wildlife, beaches and who doesn’t like people watching?!
9. Stay Hydrated
Too many visitors to the Lake Tahoe area are unaware of the effects of altitude and the dry air. Stay hydrated during your tome our there on the water. While Lake Tahoe is 99.98% pure in the middle, you may want to bring along a water bottle. Please no single use plastic – Boxed Water is the way to go!
10. Protect Yourself
The sun is very strong up here in the mountains. Sun-shirts, hats and sunscreen are highly recommended. Keep in mind you will burn faster on the water with the reflection off the surface. Prepare accordingly!
Most of all – have fun, be safe and enjoy your time paddling on the beautiful Lake Tahoe!