Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe

Water Clarity – 10+

Natural Quality – 9

Perception – Weekday, Fall


Emerald Bay

From South Lake Tahoe it was about a 15 mile drive up Hwy 89 past Emerald Bay to D.L Bliss State Park and my planned ‘put-in,’ in research I understood that the cliffs were too steep at Emerald Bay to haul a kayak in/out so with the information that I had  – Bliss State Park was the best place starting point.  I also knew that it was likely closed for camping (mid-September), but what I did not expect were the gates to be locked (“available for ‘day use’ only”) – the next open park was 7 miles further up the shore.

I really didn’t care to go further and even considered taking a walk to see how far it was to the beach (glad I didn’t) – truthfully this was a big one on my ‘list’ and I had come so far – Emerald Bay.  Seeing the locked gate did not deter me in the least, plus the weather forecast was perfect for the day – sunny, mid-seventies, with little breeze (rare for Tahoe) – I would not be denied.

I happened to have thrown the kayak ‘dollie’ in from the ‘chuck-wagon‘ before leaving Colorado, so I dug it out of the truck and strapped traveller on; loaded my lunch and variables; and then headed down the paved park road.  It turned out to be a couple mile walk, no big deal – good that I had started the day early.

one foot in front of the other, I wondered – is pushing easier than pulling?

But there was plenty of time for thought during the long walk (mostly downhill) to Rubicon Beach, the park of course was vacated – which was nice, pulling it through the sand at the beach was a small chore.

I had made it! again this was BIG on my list and as a couple of ladies (Jennifer, Linda) walking down the shore talked a moment and then they snapped a quick picture of the ‘traveller.’

The shoreline was incredible and the water was simply awesome – easily a 10 hands-down, you could see ‘clean through it,’ at least 30 to 50 feet visibility which kept me looking into the water as much as at the scenery throughout the day (fact; Tahoe is so clear that in some places objects can be seen clearly sixty-seven feet below the surface, USDA).

I couldn’t take many pictures because I was headed directly into the sun – but did notice one of the Hot-air balloons working in the distance over the lake (rent-a-ride I’m sure) taking off and landing from a large flat-topped boat.  The paddle to the mouth of Emerald Bay from Bliss State Park Beach took a little over an hour.

Of course what really stood-out in the bay was the island (Fannette Island) and what appeared to be a ‘little-castle’ on top.  I had noticed it from the road earlier and it quickly became an objective of the day.

In later research I found that Fannette Island was the only island on Lake Tahoe, it is accessible to paddlers part of the year but a bird ‘nesting area’ for the rest.

As I walked the primitive steps of the island I met ‘Rob’ from Australia – he had paddled over in his kayak (marked the ‘Old Mate’) and was sitting high on the rock ‘taking it all in’ as I entered the bay (if you ‘zoom in’ a few pictures back at the ‘island’ he is sitting in front of the little castle), Rob was now headed back to his wife whom was waiting a few miles away (without a kayak).

When I made it to the little building (The ‘Tea-House’) I understood why Rob was taking his time in leaving, amazing vantage point.

I mean is this a ‘picture window‘ or what!

– there he goes.

It was a great little-castle part of Vikingsholm –  I guessed (however wrong) that it once housed a “light” station marking Emerald Bay.  The roof is gone now but the rock-work still looks good – the view even better.

then along came another paddler,

and a boat load of ‘doggone people,’ they didn’t climb the island – just made a slow circle while the pilot talked about the history of the place. There is alot of history here like the Vikingsholm Castle, this is a quick post but I will try to add more with time.

From the island I had noticed a creek entering the bay across the way so I paddled to investigate – it was a small creek running through a pretty beach – kids played in the sand.

(fact; sixty-three streams flow into Lake Tahoe….. the water never reaches the sea, USDA)

With a paddle (and a walk) ahead of me it was time to point this craft ‘out’ of this bay and head back up the coast.

The other paddler (Bill) paddled out from the island and we chatted for a short distance, he had much further to go and moved on out ahead – the second picture kinda shows the large waves from vessels that kayakers have to occasionally account for – just a part of it.

I continued my simple pace up the shoreline, even taking a moment to speak with the couple in this tandem set-up – she was out front and was quick to point out that she did not like it at all, I could sense that ‘paddles were knockin’ it’s the skill of the paddler which should determine who sits in the rear – not the gender.

A more skilled paddler in the rear adjusts to the front paddler (even asking them to rest their paddle more) without bickering.

No paddles knockin here – just smooth paddlin, bird watchin and admiring all the things under the water (which I had done the entire day). I had a small thermometer which I pulled along, 62 degrees at the surface.

(fact; Tahoe’s surface temperature can reach 68 degrees during the summer, but at 600 feet the water remains a bone-chilling 39 degrees. The warmer surface water constantly mixes with the cooler water below which prevents the lake from freezing, USDA)

Wasn’t long till I came to the beach – it could only have been nicer if I didn’t have to think of the trek back to the main gate (hwy 89), at least I had a set of wheels and my health seems fine (maybe the afternoon workouts at the FD payed off)  – at home I constantly walk a six-mile route, so that’s how I approached this challenge, only half way to go.

“strapt er up’ and put one foot in front of the other one – now for the answer of Is it easier to “push” or to “pull?”

I found that it was easier to push my kayak back up the hill rather than to pull it (I experimented with both), kinda like a wheel-barrow or powered as a rear-wheel drive vs a front-wheel drive vehicle (again plenty of time and steps to figure this one out), up hill it was easier to push the weight than to drag the load.

With some time and a number of stops I returned up through the park and to the gate where the truck was located – the walk did not ‘dampen’ my trip.  In the parking lot I slowly put my gear back in order and loaded the truck – even chatted with the mother of a Liquidlogic design team member (Kerns) from N Carolina as she walked her dogs.

Lake Tahoe and Emerald Lake is a solid 10 in beauty

hands down.

I did take my time on the island, for a number of reasons but mostly because it was perfect – and why I came.

If you are considering paddling Lake Tahoe its beautiful, come during the season (parks are open) if you like people or on perfect days in the off season if you like less of a crowd.  Bliss State Park was about an hour paddle to Emerald Bay leaving plenty of day to explore the island or the beautiful shoreline – even with the off-season walk this paddle exceeded my expectations on the quality of Lake Tahoe, awesome place –

and perfect water clarity.