Getting Started Exploring Lake Tahoe From A Kayak
The breathtaking natural beauty of Lake Tahoe attracts visitors not just from around the US but from the rest of the world, too. One of the world’s biggest, cleanest, and deepest alpine lakes, this gleaming blue gem on the border of Nevada and California is best explored in a kayak.
If you’re keen on a Lake Tahoe kayaking adventure, use these 10 tips to make the most of your time out on the water.
10 tips to make the most of your time on Lake Tahoe
Wear A Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
A personal floatation device (PFD) is non-negotiable when kayaking on Lake Tahoe. It’s estimated that 83% of drownings occur because people don’t wear a PFD. Even if you’re a strong, experienced swimmer, you could put yourself at severe risk of drowning if an injury, shock from the lake’s icy waters, or the distance to the shore is more than you can handle. With a PFD, you’ll stay afloat regardless of the reason you ended up in the water.
Bring Safety Equipment
Don’t limit your kayaking safety equipment to your PFD. Ensure you also bring other safety equipment that will allow you to signal for help, contact emergency services or find other assistance, and improve your visibility. This equipment can be as simple as a whistle for signaling, your phone (you might have limited coverage on the lake), and a headlamp for boating in the evening and better visibility in case of mist or fog.
Take Note Of The Weather
Even though Lake Tahoe experiences an average of 300 days of sunshine every year, conditions on the lake can change in an instant, especially if the wind comes up suddenly. This isn’t always a bad thing, as the wind can work in your favor as a kayaker.
However, strong winds can make the water choppy, which makes it more difficult to navigate properly.
If you kayak on a windy day, try to paddle out against the wind so that it can propel you on your return journey to the shore. Use a free app such as Windfinder to check wind and weather conditions before setting off.
Dress For Kayaking On Lake Tahoe
Dress appropriately when you go kayaking on Lake Tahoe, assuming you’re going to get wet sooner or later. The water temperature in the lake is between 40- and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the
season, so it is chilly!
In addition to your PFD, wear brightly colored quick-drying athletic wear or a swimsuit and a hat. You should also bring sunglasses (polarized, if possible), as the glare from the water’s surface can affect visibility.
Watch Out For Boats
Watercraft on Lake Tahoe aren’t limited to kayaks and paddleboards. Instead, you will probably find yourself sharing the lake with power boats and jet skis. Watch out for these powerful watercraft and ensure you give them the right of way.
Ensure you continually take note of your surroundings so that you’re never on a collision course with boats or jet skis. Also, be aware that motorboats can create choppy conditions farther out on the lake, which could destabilize your kayak.
Stay Close To Shore If You’re A Beginner
If you don’t have much kayaking experience, it’s best to stay close to the shoreline at all times. This makes it easier to get help if needed.
South Lake Tahoe has a no-wake zone extended 600 feet from the shore, so the waters here are especially calm. The water temperature is also warmer, closer to the shore, making capsizing potentially less risky.
Choose The Right Kayak
Some kayaks are more suitable for calmer waters, while others can handle currents and choppy waters. Consider your kayak’s design before setting out on your adventure, paying attention to whether it self- bails.
You also need to consider how your kayak will fit in with your plans. If you’re going camping, you need a kayak with plenty of storage capacity, is lightweight, and suits all the water conditions you’ll come across when paddling. If you’re only going on a day trip, you can opt for a smaller or heavier kayak with less storage capacity.
Go Kayaking Early
Try and go kayaking earlier in the day, whether you’re a beginner or have experience. The wind usually picks up on Lake Tahoe between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., continuing through the afternoon and sunset.
Another reason to kayak earlier is that the lake gets busier through the day. If you go later, you’ll need to be aware of many more watercraft, and you’ll need to contend with rough conditions caused by wind and wake.
Split Your Journey Up
If you’re planning to kayak the Lake Tahoe Water Trail around the lake, it’s a good idea to explore the 72-mile circumference in sections.
- The south of the lake offers an eight-mile paddle from Nevada Beach to Baldwin Beach, crossing the south shore beaches and passing meadows and marshes.
- The western shore has a 22-mile segment of clear, calm waters that you can split into an 8-mile kayaking adventure from Baldwin Beach to Meeks Bay on one day and then an 11-mile paddle from Meeks Bay to Tahoe City on the next.
- The north shore’s 15-mile stretch boasts sandy coves and lakeside pit stops in Carnelian Bay and Tahoe Vista (cut across Crystal Bay due to the amount of private land on the shore).
- The east boasts a world-famous shoreline dotted with enormous boulders you can explore from your kayak on a 13-mile paddle from Sand Harbor to Cave Rock and then a six-mile paddle from Cave Rock to Nevada Beach.
Stay Hydrated And Use Sunscreen
The altitude of Lake Tahoe and the dry mountain air can quickly lead to dehydration. Bring a water bottle or boxed water on your kayaking adventure, and make sure you stay hydrated. In addition to staying hydrated, you should protect yourself from the strong mountain sun and the glare from the lake’s surface, which can contribute to sunburn. Use sunscreen and wear a sunshirt and a hat when out on the lake.
Explore Lake Tahoe From A Kayak
Lake Tahoe’s global reputation for incredible natural beauty is well-deserved. Time spent on the shore is never wasted, but exploring this stunning alpine lake from a kayak takes the experience to another level.