Lake Tahoe Crossing

A friend and I are considering crossing Lake Tahoe in October before the weather gets bad.

The tentative plan is to paddle up the middle of the lake from south to north in light conditions using West Side E.F.T.s sustaining as close to 5 knots as possible.

I’m curious if there’s anyone out there with experience paddling Lake Tahoe that they might like to share. Any advice/suggestions are welcome.


watch the wind
I have put in a few days this month north of emerald bay near D.L. Bliss state park. I too have been considering a crossing and this last time up went straight out a couple miles just to check it out. I paddle mostly alone and thought this would be no big deal, its just a lake, I wear good immersion clothing and have a good roll and rough water skills. Well the wind jacked up from out of the southwest and so I turned into it just playing around and frequently checking my side ranges for position. After another hour or so I realized how strong the wind was and how little progress I could make and turned back in. The disconcerting thing is that from the south the wind will blow you right up the lake the long way and there may not be a quick escape. I would also note that while the waves out there are not as big as the Cal coast, they have short wavelengths and come from lots of different directions making it pretty interesting at times. From closer in to the shore the middle of the lake looks much calmer than it is. Also, even in the summer when the water feels warm on top, if you roll over and reach down 18" or so it gets damn cold. The majority of boat traffic stays within a mile or so of the shores, so further out it feels much more isolated, which can be good or bad depending on your opinion. I am now rethinking my solo crossing plan and will likely try to con someone into going with me. All that said, I think Tahoe is stellar, and I enjoy paddling there almost as much as the coast. The fall might be just the ticket and it sounds like you are planning carefully. Best of luck, and please post any good hints after you go.


October is usually ok but

– Last Updated: Sep-01-05 10:21 AM EST –

conditions on Tahoe change rapidly, These pics were taken on a March afternoon. The Lake was flat that morning
Best bet is to start early. I have crossed from Kings Beach down to S Lake Tahoe and have circumnavigated the Lake. My inclination is to suggest you follow the east shore. It gets real scenic north of Deadman Point.

Was there two weeks ago…
and it was a hoot. Had to cancel my plans the first day, b/c a storm came in so fast. Glad I wasn’t on the water. (Was just about to put in) Lots of wind, and freaky lightning. Next day, bit of chop, not bad. Gorgeous view.

Glad To Hear You Had a Nice Trip!
Where did you put in? At South Lake?

I circumnavigated Tahoe last year with two other guys. It was the end of July and we had a great time. Camped along the way. We were lucky and had great weather.

I live in Sacramento area and paddle Tahoe all the time.

The Nevada side is the prettiest, but it’s all beautiful.

If I were crossing the lake North to S, I would go within bail out distance of the West shore. I would take basic camping gear in case the winds come up and you have to wait for the them to die down.

The California side has camp grounds and more highway access if you have a problem. I would also go before the campgrounds close. It’s nice to know you have somewhere to stay if you have to.

Meeks Bay and the boat campground in Emerald bay are accessible by Kayak. Also D L Bliss, but not very easy access to the campground from the water.

The Nevada side has Nevada Beach and long stretches with no “legal” camping.

Chances are, you’ll have great weather and won’t need any of the above, but I like to have a plan B.

I never did get the chance to email T-Chuck my itinerary, and it’s better I just rolled with the punches. I rented from Kayak Tahoe (?), and they were great, having several models to choose from rather than just your basic sit-on-top (and good prices). I like that they asked how long you’re expected to be out, b/c I tend to go out for a few hours.** Very scenic and clean. It was wonderful seeing the snow on the tops of those “Heavenly” mountains in August. Hiking was great, too. I would go back again in a second. Those are great pics, T-Chuck! Gotta love that chop!

**In May, I warned the renter in Bermuda that I can be out 2-3 hours plus, but he only wanted me to pay for 30 minutes in advance. He gave me hell upon my return. LOLOL


Hey Chuck,

– Last Updated: Sep-01-05 10:39 PM EST –

Your "flatwater lake" doesn't look so flat anymore. Looks just like the ocean that we paddle in ( and not on a calm day).

Wish I had been there with you.

Last June
I went over to Sand Harbor and had 6ft steep waves breaking over the rocks. Cold clear water was awesome. 3 more months till winter!

Thanks All
for the enlightening advice from those with experience paddling Tahoe.

I can well imagine the chaos in the middle of Tahoe in strong wind, and I can’t see any point getting into that high-risk situation in a kayak.

So, given the evident unpredictability of the winds over the lake, and the risks if caught in it during a crossing, I agree that rather than going up the middle of the lake, the best route, as some of you suggest, would be to follow the shore - so that’s what we’ll plan to do.

Better a longer (but safer) trip than a shorter but potentially more dangerous one. At least that’s how I see it.

Again, thanks for all your input. I will post our trip results.

It Is About 1,600 Feet Deep!
Not that it realy makes a difference, but Lake Tahoe is 1,600 deep. Kind of spooky to have that much water under your hull…

Chuck, I am liking the idea of a north-south trip along the east side. A circumnavigation would take too long, and straight across would not be comfortable, but a trip along the east side with overnight camping might work for Kathy and I if we had the time.

Yep It Is
I’ve only paddled in Tahoe a couple of times, and you’re right, it’s DEEP.

I once put in at Camp Richardson on the south shore for a short evening paddle to Emerald Bay and back. The entire paddle only took around 1:30 and involved crossing just a small slice of the SW part of the lake, all fairly close to shore in totally ho-hum conditions.

But in looking at the chart later, I realized the water depth along that near-shore track alone is over 1,000 feet. And I was never more than a few minutes from land!

Speaking of deep water, a straight line drawn across Monterey Bay between Santa Cruz and Monterey bisects an arm of the Monterey Canyon where the water depth exceeds 2,000’ - deeper than the deepest point in Lake Tahoe and some of the deepest water most kayakers will ever encounter.

Monterrey Bay
Just paddle a few minutes out of Moss Landing and you can have several hundred feet of water under your hull!

Monterey Bay
If I’m not mistaken, I believe the arm of the canyon that we’re referring to, which as you note runs out from Moss Landing, was formed by outflow from the Salinas River.

Anyway, Barracuda, as I understand it you reside in the SF Bay Area. Have you done the Monterey Bay crossing?

I did it some years back in an Arluk II, north to south. It turned out to be one of those “memorable” (and exhausting) crossings.

Shortly after getting underway the group (myself and Jeff Schrock, the late owner of Monterey Bay Kayaks, in singles, plus a double kayak), was enveloped in fog which remained with us almost the entire way, forcing us to run on compass with no visual references and creating (for me) a classic case of “kayakangst.”

After several hours of severe disorientation and malaise I ended up sicker than a dog. That episode taught me how to puke out of a kayak alone on the sea without tipping over - not a bad thing to know if the situation arises and rafting up is not an option.