As I post this at the beginning of October, we just had 10 inches of snow so I think it is safe to say that summer is over on the summit. While it may be a little late for this trip this year, it is something to look forward to for next summer.
One of the most scenic areas of Lake Tahoe is Sand Harbor, located on the east shore of the lake just three miles south of Incline Village. A rocky peninsula juts out into the lake to form a beautiful lagoon on the north side and a small bay on the south side. Sand Harbor Nevada State park is located on the peninsula and offers a boat launch ramp in the lagoon, picnicking, and a large sandy beach along the small bay. Large parking lots provide ample parking for both the boat ramp and beach areas.
Lake Tahoe is known for its strong afternoon winds, so it is a good idea to get out early for this trip to avoid them. Sand Harbor is kayak friendly with a large sandy beach area next to the boat ramp for putting in. Just make sure to use the boat ramp entrance to the park located at the north end of the park. The ramp is open from 6am to 8pm in the summer (May thru September) and there is a parking fee for the boat ramp lot. There is also a special area for kayak parking. Loading and unloading can be done right at the put in area at the boat ramp making it a short haul. If you don’t have a kayak, there is a rental concession next to the boat ramp that rents by day or half day.
You can’t help being struck by the beauty of the lake as soon as you begin to paddle out into the crystal clear turquoise waters of the lagoon. Huge granite boulders are visible both above and below the surface. While you can paddle either north or south, the paddle to the south is more scenic and takes you past the historic Thunderbird Lodge and down to Chimney beach, a great picnic spot. It is a leisurely paddle along the shore threading through the huge granite boulders that litter the shore. Look for Osprey and eagles and also the occasional Merganser fishing along the shore.
The stately Thunderbird Lodge offers a look at the past grandeur of Tahoe living. The paddle to Chimney beach is a little over 3 miles, but having a picnic on this isolated spot is worth it. If those pesky winds have come up, they usually blow from the south, so they should be at your back on the paddle back.
Finally a word about preventing transport of invasive species via your kayak. Lake Tahoe is a mountain jewel with crystal clear waters. To prevent the contamination of the lake, please make sure you keep your kayak hull clean and dry between outings. If you have kayaked in a lake that is known or suspected of being contaminated, wash all mud and debris off the hull and make sure it is kept dry for a couple of days before taking it out again. Most aquatic species will not survive in dry conditions.
Kayaking at Sand Harbor is a great way to experience Lake Tahoe, so plan to head down the hill and over to lake one of these days and do some paddling.