Safely exploring Lake Tahoe’s Shoreline

April Boyde
April Boyde

Lake Tahoe’s sunny days and 72-miles of shoreline offer the perfect summer playground. Spending time outdoors can have many health benefits, and movement in the water can provide physical benefits. Water activities are also calorie-burners and can help you tone up, unconventionally.

One of the most peaceful ways to experience the lake is to paddle. Kayaking and paddleboarding engage your core and, depending on your fitness level and exertion, can get your heart pumping. Boats and boards can be launched on most public shorelines, and rental shop options are abundant.

The Lake Tahoe Water Trail (LTWT) is a fun and healthy fitness adventure that offers a unique perspective of the Lake Tahoe Basin: from the water. The trail features 20 trailheads with public launch and landing sites, wayfinding signage, mapped paddle routes, water safety and conservation tips, parking and public restrooms. Paddlers can map out a custom adventure or follow a predefined path that suits their skill level and expectations; every route offers breathtaking views and opportunities to visit waterfront attractions and historic sites along the way.

You don’t have to be in top shape to enjoy time on the water. But before embarking on a paddle, there are a few key steps to ensure a safe and fun adventure.

Check weather conditions. Lake Tahoe is 12 miles wide and 22 miles long. A lake this large can create dangerous weather patterns including wind, waves, rain, snow and lightning, and unexpected shifts often happen quickly. Monitor the weather and lake conditions, and stay near the shore, so you can promptly reach it if necessary. Waterproof maps are available to help with navigation along the way.

Notify somebody of your itinerary. Tell a friend about your route or file a float plan with LTWT. Your itinerary should include your expected departure and arrival times, locations, and a description of your vessel. Let them know when you return safely.

Wear a lifejacket. Lake Tahoe’s water temperatures average 50 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit in early summer, warming throughout the season to 65 – 75 degrees. Cold water immersion can occur at water temperatures as warm as 77 degrees, which causes involuntary gasping for air, panic and vertigo, as well as creating changes in your body’s blood pressure and heart rate in

just minutes, leading to hypothermia. A properly fitted US Coast Guard-approved life jacket is required by law to be onboard a boat, kayak or paddleboard. Children under 13 must wear one at all times. A life jacket will keep your head above water and improve rescue opportunities. South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue loans jackets for free to kids and adults. All three fire stations have a supply: two locations on Lake Tahoe Blvd and one on Ski Run Blvd.

With proper preparation, a person can have an unforgettable and unique experience on Lake Tahoe. Resources are available to prepare for a fun and safe trip.

April Boyde is a Senior Chief Petty Officer with the US Coast Guard and the Safety Officer with Barton Health. To learn more about the Lake Tahoe Water Trail including how to file a float plan, learn boating rules and check real-time weather conditions, visit In case of an emergency on the water, call 911 or call for help using channel 16 on a marine radio (if equipped).

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