Low lake level to close launch at Sand Harbor
As a result of Tahoe’s worsening drought and lowering lake level, the Nevada State Park Service announced that it would close the boat ramp at Sand Harbor on July 12.
“There’s not much more we can do at this time,” Park Ranger Dale Conner said. “The lake level has dropped, and it’s impractical to remain open.”
More than 7,000 boats were launched from Sand Harbor State Park last summer, making the boat ramp the most popular in the Tahoe Basin.
The lake is 6,224.22 feet above sea level, according to Conner, and that level is about 2 feet below usual at this time of year and less than 15 inches from its natural rim.
“We figured that by July 12, the water will be only a couple of feet deep and too shallow for continued boat launches,” Conner said.
Nevada State Parks will still operate a public boat ramp at Cave Rock, which has a deeper channel and which should remain open for the season, Conner said.
“People who purchased launch permits for Sand Harbor can use them down at the Cave Rock boat ramp, but that means it will be a little crowded, so people will have to be patient,” Conner said.
Some visitors launching their boats at Sand Harbor on Friday morning weren’t too happy about the news.
“I think it’s horrible,” Laura Marshall of Danville said. “Can you print four-letter words?”
“I wish this wasn’t happening during the height of the summer,” Brad Marshall added.
Chico, Calif. resident Art Barington, a first-time launcher at Sand Harbor said he is disappointed the ramp must close.
“It looks like it wouldn’t take much work to dig out an area for the boats, but then you’re dealing with permits and lake clarity issues,” Barington said.
Dr. Duane Christian from Minden remembers a time when a tractor was used to launch the boats.
“They’d hook this tractor onto the boat trailer and then lower it down into the water,” Christian said. “I think they charged $25 or $50. I think it’s a better alternative than just closing the ramp.”
But the ramp closure news may not be so dismal for kayakers and canoers.
Kayaks, canoes and similar vessels that don’t use trailers can still use the boat ramp all summer, a prospect that makes Bill Abel of Great Basin Adventures, the kayak concession at Sand Harbor, not too sad.
“While I think it’s a damn shame about the lake level, I can’t say that it won’t benefit us,” Abel said.
While he makes sure that there are at least a dozen kayaks available for rent, the closure might mean upping the inventory.
“My boss Walt Washington has sometimes come by with as many as 16 extra boats,” Abel said. “I may need them after next weekend. I think the construction has also had an effect here. The people don’t flow like they used to and they’re going to have a heck of a time getting all those boats launched at Cave Rock. But, that’s the lake and there’s nothing we can do about it.”