Sunday, September 25, 2016

Best Kayaking In Tahoe - Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay is probably the single most important "Must See" place in Tahoe. Surrounded by 3000-foot walls of mountains, with the Vikingshom Castle at its tip, populated by Bald Eagles and Ospreys, and filled with deep water as clear as a swimming pool, Emerald Bay is at the top of your list of things to see.


This is Emerald Bay from above on the Bayview Hike. The island in the middle is Fannette Island, Tahoe's only island. I'll discuss it in my next blog post.

Most people see Emerald Bay by car. While that is good, and you'll love the experience, why not experience it from down on the water!

This is the view looking into Emerald Bay from the main body of Lake Tahoe.

Nearly any boat can get you to Emerald Bay, but I recommend human-powered craft, a kayak or canoe. Paddle craft are the best way to appreciate the sounds of the wilderness and smell the fresh air scents of wildflowers and pine trees. If you don't have a kayak, there are many places you can rent them, including, during tourist season, Baldwin Beach where we recently launched our kayak. 

The beauty of kayaks and canoes is that they require no license,and can be put in at any public beach on the lake. (But like all boats, they do require a boat inspection for invasive species. Here's the link for boat inspection information.)

For an easy trip, choose a boat launch site that is close to Emerald Bay such as D.L. Bliss State Park or Baldwin Beach. From Baldwin Beach, the distance to the end of Emerald Bay is about 4 - 5 miles. If you paddle at a leisurely rate and take time out to observe the birds, you can make the 8 - 10-mile round trip in 2 or 3 hours. Add in a picnic break, and you have a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. If you want to explore Fannette Island or the Vikingsholm Castle or Eagle Falls just behind the castle, plan more time.

Watch for this sign near the road that leads to easy parking just steps from the sand beach.

The entrance to Baldwin Beach is about 4 miles west-northwest of the "Y" intersection in South Lake Tahoe. Head out Emerald Bay Road (89). When you get to Camp Richardson, you are about half way to Baldwin. The parking cost is less than $10, well worth it for the convenience of a great beach, decent restrooms, and a perfect place to launch your boat.

Paddle northwest along the shore. You'll come to the entrance to Emerald Bay in about 2.5 miles. Eagle Point is the southern point, Emerald Point is the northern point. The bay's entrance varies in width depending on the water level of Lake Tahoe, commonly ranging from 800 feet wide at high water to 300 feet wide at low water.

Once you enter the bay, the western tip of the bay is another 2 miles or so. Here are a few photos to whet your appetite...

The water of Lake Tahoe is as clear as that in a good swimming pool.

This is the view as you approach Eagle Point from the south.

At the entrance to the bay, the green and red buoys mark the deepest water. Kayaks and canoes can stay outside of the buoys to give deep-draft boats more room. But keep your eye open for rocks that are near the surface. As with all boating, your safety is not guaranteed. Wear flotation vests and don't paddle fast in shallow waters. Even small boats like kayaks and canoes can get a hole punched through the hull if you hit a rock hard.

Looking west down the bay shows Maggie's Peaks with the giant rock slide from where a chunk of the mountain slid into the bay back in 1955.

On the south shore of the bay is a campground with a nice beach. Expect large crowds during tourist season. But in the off season, you may have the place to yourself.

Pull up on the sand for a good picnic spot.

The M.S. Dixie paddlewheeler is just pulling up at the Vikingsholm Castle.

An osprey is studying the water for fish. Woe to any underwater creatures that venture too close to the surface!

To the southwest, we could see two snowfields left on Mt. Tallac. This was in early September after a below-normal winter. Both snowfields are below 9000 feet. (You won't see snow that low in the Colorado Rockies in September because they have warmer summers than we do at the same elevation.)

Next week, I'll detail Fannette Island, which can be visited by boat. (Swimming from the mainland is not allowed, as the boat traffic and cold water temperatures make it too dangerous.) 

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