Beach space decreased this year as Lake Tahoe fills from historic winter

People recreate this week at Sand Harbor.
Hannah Pence/Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — With the summer season heating up, locals and visitors will be flocking to the dozens of beaches that surround Lake Tahoe.

A historic winter and subsequent run-off from snowmelt, however, means there will be less real estate for beachgoers at many of the lake’s popular summertime destinations.

“Thanks to our wet winter, Lake Tahoe is approaching its maximum limit,” said Lisa Herron, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “This means beaches may look different this year as water levels are very high around the lake. Visitors can expect Lake Tahoe beaches to be smaller than previous years due to the high lake levels.”

Lake Tahoe currently is at an elevation of 6,227.5 feet and is roughly three feet higher than at the same time last year. Lake Tahoe’s maximum legal limit is set at an elevation of 6,229.1 feet.

“Beaches with vegetation or rocky shoreline may be inaccessible,” added Herron. “Arrive early to beat the crowds and use this opportunity to explore new areas.”

The additional water this year in Lake Tahoe equals dozens of feet of less beach space at popular locations like Sand Harbor, according to officials from Nevada State Parks.

For those planning on visiting beaches on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, Sand Harbor’s boat ramp will be open for the first time since July 2021.

A view of Lake Tahoe from Sand Harbor.
Hannah Pence/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Those wishing to launch a boat on Lake Tahoe must be inspected and decontaminated prior to launching. Since late May, the lake’s three regional inspection stations are open. Boaters can have vessels inspected in South Tahoe at the Meyers Inspection Station, at the Spooner Summit Inspection Station, across the lake at the Alpine Meadows Inspection Station. Since 2008, the program has inspected more than 107,000 vessels, helping prevent aquatic invasive species from entering Lake Tahoe.

This summer, two solar-powered cleaning machines are being deployed to allow paddlers to clean their gear before getting on the water. One machine, owned and operated by the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, will be kept at Meeks Bay Resort on the West Shore. The second will rove between popular sites around the Tahoe Region and will be periodically staffed.

Lake Tahoe’s elevation will remain high for the foreseeable future, according to Federal Water Master Chad Blanchard, as snowpack from winter continues to feed the Truckee River and local reservoirs.

“There is more than enough water and water from reservoirs that we have to use ahead of Tahoe that will meet our demands,” said Blanchard. “We have certain demands that we have to meet downstream, certain flow targets, and those will be met first from natural flow because there’s still so much snow up there.”

People on the beach this week at Cave Rock.
Hannah Pence/Tahoe Daily Tribune

As the region heads into summer, officials from the forest service are reminding visitors and locals that sites within the Tahoe Basin are under year-round fire restrictions, and fires are only permitted within provided metal fire ring and grills.

The forest service is also warning visitors of heightened bear activity due to higher-than-average snow coverage, resulting in less natural food sources. Food and garbage should always be properly secured.

For more information on recreating in and around the Tahoe Basin, visit

This week, Lake Tahoe’s elevation was at roughly two and a half feet below its legal limit. Regan Beach in South Lake Tahoe remains beneath water.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

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