A surge in demand for piloting Lake Tahoe by paddle has gotten the attention of area agencies, and kayakers, canoers and stand-up paddleboarders can expect more improvements in the years to come.
"This use is exploding in popularity," said Sue Rae Irelan, a program analyst with the California Tahoe Conservancy and a regular Lake Tahoe kayaker.
"It's a closer contact with the lake, a more intimate contact with the lake, than any other use," Irelan said.
Public agencies have introduced kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals at Nevada Beach, Baldwin Beach, Sand Harbor and Sugar Pine Point State Park in the past two years. California State Parks also opened paddling rentals at Emerald Bay this summer.
The Conservancy is spearheading efforts to get the latest information out to paddlers at Patton Landing in Carnelian Bay at the North Shore, while Nevada State Parks has a designated a launch location for nonmotorized watercraft at Sand Harbor, making a popular launch spot easier to use, Irelan said.
The boat-in campground at Emerald Bay has seen a marked increase in interest from paddlers in the past few years, said Brian Barton, chief ranger for the Sierra District of California State Parks. He said he is working on getting funding for overnight storage racks for paddle campers. He hopes to have them in place next summer.
"I can just tell you kayaking on Lake Tahoe is one of those sensory experiences that is overwhelming," Barton said.
Americans with Disability Act improvements at area beaches, wayfinding signs directing paddlers to appropriate launch sites and improving parking areas to accommodate facilities like drop-off spots for kayaks and paddleboards are future improvements being discussed by a working group agencies focused on nonmotorized boating, Irelan said.
A 2008 survey of Lake Tahoe paddlers is being used as a framework for the improvements. Parking, access to campsites, adequate signs and conflicts with other watercraft were among the categories that Lake Tahoe paddlers rated poorly in the survey.
Designating some areas for dawn openings to accommodate early morning paddlers and possibly providing limited services during the winter are also ideas being discussed by the working group, Irelan said.
Programs moving forward include educating paddlers on appropriate safety measures, the differences between beach access laws in California and Nevada and preventing the introduction of invasive species, Irelan said.
As part of the Tahoe Keepers program, mobile inspectors are helping paddlers avoid moving invasive species around the region. Lake Tahoe agencies encourage all boaters to clean their vessels, drain them of water and make sure the craft are dry before launching them on the lake to prevent the spread of harmful species like quagga mussels.