What to do (and what not to do) during holiday weekend at Lake Tahoe
Special to the Tribune
The Fourth of July holiday period is the busiest time of year in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Residents and visitors are urged to keep the following in mind to help everyone enjoy a safe and fun holiday. Expect extremely crowded conditions and excess traffic. Pack your patience! Because of the basin’s high elevation, expect intense sunlight during the day and much lower temperatures at night. Bring sunscreen, a jacket, and carry a flashlight. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Illegal and abandoned campfires continue to be the leading cause of wildfires at Lake Tahoe — wildfire prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Possession of fireworks of any kind, including firecrackers and sparklers, is illegal in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Campfires are only allowed in metal fire rings at developed campgrounds. Campfires and portable charcoal grills are not permitted on National Forest beaches, in the general forest, or in the Desolation Wilderness. If planning to barbecue on the beach, bring a portable gas grill instead of charcoal to reduce the danger of wildfire in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Remember, a hot ember can travel for miles in the wind and it only takes one small spark to ignite a large wildfire.
Keep in mind that warm temperatures have accelerated melting of the basin’s tremendous snowpack. Streams and rivers will be cold, swift and high. Snowmelt water is extremely cold and exposure for even a few minutes can cause hypothermia. Always use life jackets that meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements when kayaking, rafting and paddling, regardless of swimming ability and always go with a buddy, never alone. Avoid crossing flooded areas and keep in mind stream and river levels can fluctuate rapidly. A stream crossed early in the day, may not be able to be crossed later in the day as temperatures warm.
Expect Lake Tahoe beaches to be much narrower than in previous years. Some beaches with vegetation or rocky shoreline may be inaccessible. Arrive early to beat the crowds and use this opportunity to explore new areas.
Hikers are advised that a great deal of snow remains in the back country. Trails may not be visible. A map and compass are essential, along with proper footwear, clothing and gear. Travel with a buddy, never alone. Keep in mind your mobile device may not work in some areas. Develop an emergency plan in case you cannot call for help.
The annual alcohol ban will be in effect at Nevada Beach, Zephyr Cove Resort, and Zephyr Shoals (the former Dreyfus Estate) on July 4. The Forest Order and maps will be posted at http://bit.ly/2tvaaPB. In addition, county and state laws ban the possession or consumption of alcohol on the Truckee River from Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows and Chamber’s Landing Beach on the West Shore, beginning July 1 and continuing through July 6. These areas will be patrolled by law enforcement personnel from the Forest Service, state and local law enforcement, and private security staff.
Consider public transportation as holiday traffic and road construction make for extremely crowded roads and parking areas. Walk, carpool or bicycle to avoid limited parking in crowded recreation areas and heavy traffic and delays after the firework displays. The Nifty Fifty Trolley stops at National Forest beaches along the South and West shores of Lake Tahoe. At developed recreation sites, such as Kiva, Tallac Historic Site, Taylor Creek Visitor Center and Echo Lake and Angora Lake resorts, parking is allowed only in designated parking spaces inside the parking lots, not along the roadway. When parking, do not block road access or narrow lanes, which could delay response in an emergency. Where parking on the side of the road is allowed, be careful to not park on vegetation as this can cause damage to the environment and can spark a wildfire.
Day-use parking fees for July 4 at Pope, Baldwin, and Nevada beaches will be $20 and at Zephyr Cove Beach $35 to cover increased security and facility maintenance costs of the holiday.
Please respect the rules on where pets are allowed. Pets are not allowed on National Forest designated swim beaches, including Nevada, Pope, Baldwin, Meeks Bay, and William Kent. Leashed pets are welcome at Kiva Picnic Area from the Valhalla Boathouse/Pier to Tallac Point near South Lake Tahoe, Echo Lakes on Echo Summit, Zephyr Shoals, Hidden and Chimney beaches on the East Shore, Coon Street Beach (at the boat launch) in King’s Beach, Kaspian and 64 Acres beaches in Tahoe City. For more information on rules regarding pets, visit http://bit.ly/2t0aTaK.
Finally, trash and debris left behind after festivities can be harmful and even fatal to wildlife. It represents a human health hazard, and degrades Lake Tahoe. Trash cans may become full, so plan ahead and pack out all garbage.
The TFFT wishes everyone a safe and fun Independence Day!