Dangerous Information/Misinformation - Quick Pit Stop @ Pyramid Lake Nevada

I was going through the Paddling Destinations section and was checking out destinations in Nevada, where I live. In doing so I ran across one for Pyramid Lake, it states, " Many places to pull over - make sure to visit BLM land site for further information, but an absolutely calm and wonderful desert-like environment for smooth paddling."

I became alarmed at the description of paddling on this very large, deep-water lake that can be smooth and calm one minute and extremely dangerous the next, especially to those not prepared! Pyramid Lake is not a good place for beginner paddlers and should not be taken as a destination for anybody that may not be completely prepared to deal with wind and waves. Even without any winds at my location, I have seen 2’-3’ waves come up making boating very dangerous, especially for the inexperienced. Temperatures can exceed 100°F in the Summer and drop to sub-zero temps in the Winter months. Please beware! Pyramid Lake’s beauty and tranquility can be like the Siren’s Song.

I live about 20 miles from Pyramid Lake and used to boat on it regularly, in a 22’ cuddy cabin, V-8 powered inboard-outboard. We used to hang out at Hell’s Kitchen and could spend the whole day out there on the water with no signs of man, except maybe an occasional airplane flying over. I would drop 100 feet of anchor line and not touch bottom, 10’ away from a cliff face along the shore. This lake can become extremely dangerous, very quickly, as the wind or waves can come up like the flick of a switch.

Here is a little information about Pyramid Lake, which may help any would be visitors:
Pyramid Lake is a little larger than Lake Tahoe which is also partly in Nevada. The waters of Lake Tahoe flow through Reno and Sparks, NV to Pyramid Lake via the Truckee River.
Pyramid Lake is over 300 feet deep, is the remnant of the ancient Lake Lahontan and is 1/3 as salty as the ocean.
Pyramid Lake is a popular fishing destination. Lahontan Cut-throat Trout, weighing as much as 25 pounds or more can be caught here. Trolling and fly fishing are probably the most popular way to fish for these monster trout. Pyramid Lake is owned by the Paiute Indian Tribe. You must obtain a permit for any type of day use, fishing, camping and/or boating. A person will want to stick to the normal drive routes along the shore or risk being instantly stuck in deep, loose sand resulting in an expensive extraction and/or a day long ordeal. About one half of the lake is inaccessible by anything but a boat.

Do not rely on a single source of information before trekking out to destinations unknown. Do your homework, know your destination…and paddle safe.


Multiple beaches were closed on Pyramid Lake last July due to heavy concentrations of blue-green algae.

Algae blooms happen annually at Pyramid. Much of the lake gets covered in a bright green, pea soup of algae. It never stopped us from going out on the lake and enjoying our weekends of solitude though.

That lake looks similar to Lake Mohave which we can see from a house we have. It gets very windy.
I’m very interested in either trying to windsurf again (many years ago had one in St Thomas) or even get a sail kit for one of our kayaks.

There is a place called Telephone Cove where we used to camp. I think it’s getting more popular with Californians but when we used to go there would be nobody else there.

A good destination, I think. very clean water and many petroglyphs in the area if you like to hike.

I do wonder if Northern Nevada has as many rattlesnake and if they crawl inside your house?!


Forget the BLM.
The whole lake is part of the Lake Pyramid Paiute Tribe. They control the fishery. They give permits for boating, fishing and camping. They have a fish hatchery.

The Lake record for Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is 43 pounds. The new Pilot Peak strain of LCTs is close to the original genetic strain that was extirpated from the Lake years ago. We are looking forward to a 30 pounder soon.

The Newlands Project in 1903 create irrigation for the first time in Lahontan Valley. The Truckee River flows from Lake Tahoe through Reno to Pyramid Lake and evaporates as a termianl lake. Water from the Truckee River is diverted to the Carson River below Reno above the Lake. Historic water levels in the Lake fell around 70 feet due to irrigation. Since the 1970s the lake level has been rising. The Tribe has won numerous court decisions to regain water in the lake. They own the reservoir storage in Stampede Reservoir, and use it for attractant flows to promote the LCT fishery as well as the endangered cui-cui a type of sucker. The fish spawn in the Lower Truckee River.

I have paddled sea kayaks on the Lake with 3-4 waves, sailed on it, wakeboarded on it and camped next to its shores. It is a winter fishery.

Stay near shore if you paddle on it. The lake is large as in over 20 miles long. It has a lot of fetch and winds can come up any time, nearly always in the aftrernoon. Never turn your back on Lake Pyramid. We have fatals nearly every year due to the fishing during winter. Wear a life jacket. it is risky in a small boat with cold water.

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The history of Pyramid Lake is pretty amazing…

I would love to paddle all the way around Pyramid, but don’t know if they would allow me to camp on the East side. Paddling around the Pinnacles has got to be pretty cool.

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