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Visitor's Guide to Truckee-Tahoe Boating, Water Recreation & Sustainability

May 29, 2024
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Spending time at Truckee-Tahoe’s beautiful alpine lakes and rivers is one of our favorite ways to beat the summer heat and take in the gorgeous mountain scenery. If you plan to paddleboard, kayak, canoe, or power boat, these tips can help you have a fun and safe day.

What every boater needs to know about life jackets

Life jackets are mandatory in California. Different rules apply depending on the length and type of boat, and the age of the boater. The links below can help you understand what type of floatation device is required to carry or wear on your vessel. 

Fit is important! You’re looking for the Goldilocks “just right” snug fit.  Too big and it’ll push up around your face and neck. Too small and it may not keep you afloat. Check the weight rating and make sure it’s US Coast Guard approved. 

Brr! Be prepared for cold water

Our alpine lakes are fed by snowmelt, and because Truckee and Lake Tahoe are at altitude, the water temperature stays quite cold throughout the year. Cold water can be a shock to the system, just ask anyone who’s done a polar plunge! While cold water shock is most prevalent in water temperatures below 59 degrees Fahrenheit, it can occur in any temperature.

When it comes to cold water safety, life jackets save lives. So, don’t forget to wear your PFD! We also recommend considering a wetsuit if wakeboarding/waterskiing or swimming. If you fall in the water, stay calm, get out as soon as possible, and stay with your boat or paddleboard if you need a rescue.

Learn about Cold Water Shock from Take Care Tahoe.

Know before you go! Tips before launching

While Truckee-Tahoe usually enjoys sunny, clear skies during the summer, mountain weather can be unpredictable. Winds typically pick up in the afternoon, and strong gusts are not uncommon, especially on Lake Tahoe. Check Truckee-Tahoe Weather & Webcams before heading out, be aware of wind advisories, and stay alert and aware of rapidly changing conditions.

Protect Truckee-Tahoe from Aquatic Invasive Species: Clean, Drain & Dry!

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are devastating to the health of our watershed, environment, and native species. Boat inspections prevent invasives from entering our waters, a critical measure to protect our alpine lakes, rivers, and tributaries. Plan for mandatory boat inspections before your trip and learn more at the links below.

Lake Tahoe Tips for Motorized & Nonmotorized Boats

Out for a cruise on Lake Tahoe? If you're operating a motorized boat, remember to GO SLOW in these no-wake zones:

  • All of Emerald Bay
  • Within 100 ft of paddlers and swimmers
  • Within 200 ft of shoreline structures
  • Within 600 ft from shore

Along with the above, here are some tips from Keep Tahoe Blue for the best experience on Lake Tahoe.

  • Be prepared for strong wind and large waves.
  • Wear a life jacket and know how to stay safe in cold water.
  • Be aware of strong currents and know right of way.
  • In case of emergency, call or radio US Coast Guard.
  • See an issue? Report it through the Tahoe Boating App.

Lake Tahoe Water Trail: 72 miles of adventure

For an adventure like no other, check out the Lake Tahoe Water Trail. The endless 72-mile water route takes paddlers along Lake Tahoe's beautiful shoreline. Visit their site for information on public launch and landing sites, maps, paddle routes, navigation tools, paddleboard and kayak rentals, and water safety tips to help you have a safe and fun paddle adventure.

Where to go, boat rentals, and boat facilities.

Now that we’ve covered summer tips, it’s time to get on the water! View our summer activities page to find out where to go, where to find paddleboard or boat rentals, and more. Whatever adventure you’re looking for, whether it’s lounging on white sand beaches or paddling the shoreline of Donner Lake, you'll find it in Truckee-Tahoe.

Where to "go" when nature calls!

Boat California reminds us to Go Before You Go! Before hitting the water, plan to use the restroom first to keep our beautiful waters clean. That being said, when you gotta go, you gotta go! Here is a list of Lake Tahoe public bathrooms to help you find the nearest beach to beeline it to when the need arises. If you can't make it to a bathroom, this blog about how to go to the bathroom in the backcountry can help you understand how to protect our environment, wildfire, and water sources. Most importantly, make sure you're 200 feet from water and dig a hole at least 6-8 inches deep. A WAG Bag is a great item to keep on your watercraft, just in case you need to pack out waste.

Take care of our pristine waters & help build a Sustainable Truckee

Last but certainly not least, join us in taking care of our incredible lakes, rivers, and beaches! Everyone can be a steward of these special places by following the Leave No Trace principles. Although you may not notice it from the surface, hundreds of pounds of trash end up in our lakes each year. Local dive team and nonprofit, Clean Up The Lake, recovered 6500 pounds of trash in Donner Lake in 2022. During the dives, they found items like tires, sunglasses, lawn chairs, and phone cords.

Remember, your everyday actions make a BIG difference for our environment - thanks for packing out trash, keeping sunglasses on a lanyard, and securing items on windy days! 

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