Blue is beautiful, dangerous |

Blue is beautiful, dangerous

As summer temperatures heat up, the pull to Lake Tahoe and nearby river waters is strong for many visitors.

But so are the forces that can contribute to drowning.

Lake Tahoe and its surrounding lakes and rivers average about two drownings a year, authorities reported Tuesday. None of those happened on the Fourth of July within the last decade, but rescue officials say people shouldn’t let their guard down.

“People have the tendency to think that just because they’re out on the water, they can behave any way they want,” South Lake Tahoe police Cmdr. George Brown said.

Sheriff’s Deputy Don Stabenow, who has worked on the sheriff’s patrol boat for 12 years, urged boaters to slow down and have patience.

Some have whizzed by Stabenow at 30 to 40 mph. Many clog the channel near Emerald Bay, a hazardous spot for those hugging the shore too closely.

The lake’s low water level heightens the risk of running aground or hitting a rock. Stabenow urged boaters to stay to the left of the red buoys, which are positioned for their safety.

“If you go to the right of the red buoys, it will tear off your prop,” he said.

The deputy also urged boaters planning to view the nighttime fireworks to stay clear of other boats. There’s usually gridlock at the Tahoe Keys, he said.

Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Crawford patrols along the American River, where low water has made rafting trips more technical and risky this year.

“The water level is fluctuating so much…. You never know if we’re going to have a raftable river or not,” Crawford said.

Even with the risks, Lake Tahoe can prove to be safer than most lakes because of the number of agencies patrolling it, Tahoe City Station Chief Jim Devane pointed out.

“If you’re going to get into trouble, Tahoe is the place for that to happen,” he said.

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