Echo Lake, Ca. (near S Lake Tahoe)

Water Clarity – 10

Natural Quality – 9

Perception – Weekday, fall

(VGPS – 9900 Echo Lakes Rd, Echo Lake, CA)

Elevation – @ 7400′



In recent conversation with a native of the Tahoe area (Alicia and Ron), Alicia helped to narrow my visit objectives to two; Echo Lake and Lake Tahoe (Emerald Bay).  Echo Lake would be a smaller paddle with a little more altitude than Tahoe.  Ron was quick to mention the ‘freshness’ of water in the lake (s) also.

Oakland (wife to airport) was behind me and it was good to make it through Sacramento before the morning traffic became a buzz.  The drive up hwy 50 began as daylight was breaking – the closer to Tahoe the nicer Hwy 50 became – lots of old stand pines in boulder-like settings.


It was a comfortable ride in my vehicle, but when I stepped out to check this road-art gremlin along the roadside – the ‘freshness of everything was apparent.  I had just listened to the weather report for 100 miles away – 90 degrees was the report, now my heater is on – and I see frost!….  With chacos on there was now a need for socks and my glasses (because everything looked so neat)…..


My only objective for this date was to simply make it to South Lake Tahoe and find a place to rest-up, before finding two full days of paddlin (weather permitting) in the area..

By chance the ‘Echo Lake’ sign appeared just before Tahoe so I made the cut to take a quick look.  Highway 50 was really pretty as the sun rose, besides the old-stand pines there was a beautiful mountain stream running along side – made several stops.


The landing at Echo Chalet was vacated with the exception of a couple dock workers, it was early October and I suppose the season was over here.  The workers gave me a quick overview of the lake and welcomed me to paddle it – so I did.

Note; an aquatic invasive species inspection is currently required of your vessel at their gate (I carry Ivory dish detergent (biodegradable )and brush ‘Traveller’ down between lakes).


The lake was lowered for the winter and the rocky setting ‘stood-out’ for me, kinda like lake Glenville but sand was rare here, very little..  The construction methods of the pilings were unusual (more later) and then I noticed there were no roads – everything had to be ‘boated’ in – so the homes had been piece-built – I was informed that some have been here since the twenties.  The bath water comes from the lake (might see some pipes) and it seems the sewage is worked on a latrine system and/or carried out.


As the workers made their way to a dock bringing more building supplies in, I stopped to chat – I think it was a about the type of wood they used (I saw cedar for a dock, and fur – where I am used to seeing more treated yellow pine).

They also mentioned there was another part to the lake but with the water down I might have to pull the kayak through – I was half way around the lake by that time so ‘more-lake’ sounded good.


not too bad a portage even though my feet were numb from the frigid water.


Upper Echo Lake was even more ‘peaceful.’ The boat in the picture was coming to pick up the parts from the first boat – to shuttle them further, the only two on the lake.  Being here in the off season seems to work well for a paddler, I could imagine the busier traffic and ‘oscillating waves during the summer being more bothersome.  The lake today was really placid and easy to understand how (specially at this time of year) it got it’s name.


There were numerous islands on this other portion of the lake too, stand-out rock.


and at the very end of the second lake I found the Lake Aloah trailhead for Desolation Wilderness – I guess alot of folks hike this trail and then some call for a boat-taxi to return across the lake and the rest of the way out (taxi closed for the winter).




Of course there were plenty of other things to look at too, houses built on rock islands, old weathered tree trunks, and rocks in the clear water.  While paddling the shoreline I had only found two small streams feeding the lake, later through conversation I learned that the lakes volume is supported mainly from the snow melt of winter.

From a wildlife standpoint I noticed a hawk; other than that it seemed void of wildlife, likely due to the time of year.  I did expect to notice more fish in the clear water – but didn’t.


But again the shoreline continued to amuse.



Then the short portage and back into the main portion of the lake – with the two sections I paddled the complete shoreline in a large ‘figure-8’ which seemed to work with the morning sun and breeze.



The best word that I could think of for the docks and homes attached to the rocks was ‘improv,’ and in many places the cribbing filled with rock seemed to work well in stabilizing the structures.



These were the pilings at the landing, plenty stable.  I find that each lake has it’s own unique characteristic’s – I think the rocks, the isolation, and the manner in which this lake has utilized simple ingenuity to enjoy it’s beauty – marks this lakes sound character.


After a week ‘off of the water’ this simple paddle was just what I needed to help ‘acclimate’ me for Emerald Bay.  A person could easily spend six hours or more exploring Echo Lake, I had spent about five – leaving the next day for Emerald Bay and a day ahead of schedule.

As far as season, I do like the off season for it’s ‘peace’ and quiet – less doggone people.  Echo Lake is an easy lake to paddle and a nice place to spend some time – its pretty and unique in its own way – but come prepared to dress warm, even in the summer – the water is fresh!!..

“Hello out there”  “Hello out there