Sunday, June 14, 2009

Paddling Lake Tahoe

Navigating Tahoe: Committee wants lodge-to-lodge kayaking program
By Kathryn Reed • Special to the RGJ • June 12, 2009

Even though nonmotorized boating has been a recreation activity since the Washo Indians were the predominate residents at Lake Tahoe, it wasn't until a handful of years ago that the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Association came into being.
Bob Kingman, who worked for the California Tahoe Conservancy at the time, is credited with coming up with the idea. From there, a group of people dedicated to tourism at the lake formed the association.
"Our purpose is to promote kayaking use on the lake, boat safety and some of the other issues like invasive species," said Dennis Liebl, a current and founding member of the LTWTA.
This month, the second edition of the water trail map will be available via the nonprofit's Web site ( for $8.95.
Puttering around the entire 72-mile shoreline is not recommended for the beginning paddler. Gliding across Lake Tahoe takes some muscle, especially when the afternoon winds kick up and a headwind whips across the bow. Despite what can be adverse conditions at times, the number of kayakers plying the emerald waters keeps growing. Canoeing and paddle boarding also are becoming more popular on this alpine lake.
The water trail committee is in the beginning stages of creating a lodge-to-lodge kayaking program. The idea is that people would paddle from one room to the next. Their belongings would be moved for them. Talk of a guide being available on the water and special activities like massages and paddler-only dinners are being discussed.
A major obstacle is the lack of lodging facilities on the East Shore. Not even camping opportunities exist there. This creates a long excursion for paddlers and one of the major reasons why traveling around the entire lake is not recommended for novices.
Another reason the East Shore, which is mostly in Nevada, can be troubling for paddlers is how public and private property are defined.
In California, the public might access land that is below the high-water mark. With the basin in its third drought year, this exposes a vast amount of land. In Nevada, a public easement does not exist on private property. This makes landing on a private beach in Nevada similar to trespassing.

A survey of human powered boaters that was taken late last summer and released this spring shows the No. 1 concern isn't even on the water -- it's parking, or the lack of it.

Storage for nonmotorized boats exists in Incline Village. Lakeview Commons, which is in the planning stages in South Lake Tahoe, will have a similar facility. The theory is that kayakers will bike or use public transit to get to the launching facility so then the parking issue doesn't exist.
Survey takers said the main reason to paddle on Lake Tahoe is scenic beauty. Huge granite boulders are prominent on the East Shore. Some areas offer views of extraordinary lakefront homes. Osprey and eagles are a common sight. Of course, the mountains are always a feast for the eyes.
Visiting kayakers mostly hail from California and Nevada, at 57.2 percent and 33 percent, respectively. The bulk of the Nevadans are from Reno and Sparks, which accounts for 66.7 percent, with Carson City and Douglas County residents accounting for 29.3 percent.
The sport, however, does not seem to appeal to everyone.
"We are finding the people who are kayaking on the lake tend to be affluent and tend to be older," said Sue Rae Irelan, the California Tahoe Conservancy's liaison to the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee.
The CTC works with other public land owners, including both state parks systems, utility districts, U.S. Forest Service and business owners. Signage is one of their projects for the coming years. Irelan said the plan is to let people on the water know there might be no public access for several miles, as well as indicate where public landings are allowed.
Education also is a major component of what the public land owners are doing. This year getting the word out about the threat of invasive aquatic species is the priority.
"The message we are sending is that whenever you move a boat from one body of water to the next it ought to be cleaned, drained and dry," Irelan said. "When it's taken out of the water, they need to be turned over and drained so the water goes back into the water it was taken from."
Each spring and fall, the water trail committee hosts an event. Fun and education are the emphasis. For those without a kayak, several retailers around the lake rent them. Water trail maps are usually available there, too.

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