Lake Tahoe is Friggin' Cold!

I think this falls under the “advice” part of the forum title. I’ve been seeing more and more people out on the lake (Tahoe) these days so I stuck the kayak on the car and went for a paddle. I wore what little protection I own, PFD, a 2mm shorty wetsuit, splash pants and top and fairly thick scuba boots. Of course, seeing a guy without PFD on a stand-up paddle board a week ago made me optimistic.

First thing I did was to take a swim. Holy cow! Anything not covered by the wetsuit hurt after about 30 seconds. My legs under the splash pants stung and my hands ached. It was a bit painful. I avoided sticking my head underwater.

The wetsuit helped quite a bit and I was able to float, with my hands out of the water, for a minute or two. It was painful but I probably could swim a short distance ashore if I fell out of my boat. I’m not sure I could roll back up if my head went under first. I didn’t try that since I have no hood or ear protection.

I recommend taking a swim before getting in a boat if the water temperature where you are paddling is not something you’ve experienced before. It will be enlightening.


I used to have to dive down into a 40
degree swimming pool in April to pull plugs out of the filter lines. Fortunately, I don’t have much of a gasp reflex, but after each such dive, I would have to stagger back into a warm bed where I shivered uncontrollably for half an hour.

I wouldn’t recommend a test swim unless one is already properly attired in a dry or wet suit. You can measure the water temperature. Once you know that, it becomes clear what you need to wear.

Good for you!
Now you know, first hand, how that water feels to you.

Nothing better than first hand information!

Did you check the water temp?

That might save you needing to do it again in similar circumstances.


good advice
I remember the top 1" on Tahoe wasn’t too cold.

time to graduate
to something thicker that 2mm, and something longer than shorty johns :wink:

“Shrinkage” can be
very “enlightening” too!

(As others mentioned above, it may be time

to pony-up some bucks on serious cold water

immersion gear…So here’s wishing you good

luck in any Nevada casinos you might decide

to frequent.)

so that’s why…
So, what, your parents made you do that? Now we know why you’re so grumpy. Long ago victim of child abuse. :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Couldn’t you have just
put a string or small rope on the plugs, then pulled them from the surface?

Or yer kin thaw out at de…
Mustang Ranch!


Dressed for the air temps
I see a lot of people out on the water who are dressed for the weather, not the water. We try to paddle the shallower creeks where all you have to do is stand up and wade 10 ft to the shore if you end up in the drink. Last time out with water temp @ 43deg I couldn’t take much more than 10 minutes barefooted in the water. To be totaly submerged would have been awful.


Would assume
Tahoe is cold from snow melt from Squaw Valley…

Maybe it warms up more in the summer?

gets almost warm in Sept
Early Sept last year I was there with warm 65F water. Tolerable for a quick dip to clean up at the end of the day.

Cold Tahoe
Tahoe is too deep and too snow-fed to ever get very warm. When I was much younger, and even dumber than I am now, I swam about 1/4 of a mile out to a little island in that lake. That length of swim was no big deal to me, I was used to up to a mile. It was end of August, and my only insulation was my bathing suit and my 20% or so body fat. The swim back was a close call, the cold almost got me.

Tahoe is comfortable in the summer
Although Tahoe is full of snow melt, it gets up above 60f in the summer and even into the mid sixties at the surface in the shallow areas. Of course if you dive down more than ten or fifteen feet, you are back into the perpetually cold water.

I would love to get warmer gear but instead, I just wait another month until a short swim is tolerable. The funny thing is that as the water gets warmer, I also get acclimated to the cold so by the end of summer, it’s downright tropical taking a swim.

The water temperature right now is 45f to 48f according to U.C. Davis temperature sensors around the lake. I usually discount the highest and sensor and I certainly ignore the one that says the lake is 71f right now! It’s getting warmer quickly and I should be paddling and swimming regularly within a month.

And there is significant shrinkage but complete lack of luck in any casino.