TRAVELS | August 5, 2014

Keep Tahoe Blue

An exploration of the beautiful NorCal lake

Carrie, Founder & Chief Wanderer

I find it serendipitous that my first travel blog post is about Lake Tahoe, a destination surrounded with environmental buzz. Driving around the Lake, you will undoubtedly see several cars with a ‘Keep Tahoe Blue’ bumper sticker. Until my recent trip there, I couldn’t fully grasp the true meaning of this statement.

While in Tahoe, we were lucky to stay at a friend’s home on the lakefront. I don’t think there is a better way to experience the Lake and I recommend checking out AirBnB or VRBO for rentals. Waking up each morning watching the sun slowly arch over the giant lake and surrounding mountains was magical. It wasn’t until I was staying on the lake that I realized the sheer magnitude of it— it is massive in all aspects: depth, length, and width. In fact, Lake Tahoe measures 1,645 feet deep, 22 miles long and 12 miles wide.

While in Tahoe we took advantage of all the lake had to offer and did so in the most environmentally friendly ways: kayaking, paddle boarding, and of course, swimming. Not only can you enjoy these activities without the use of motors (and burning fuel), but they also allow you to connect with nature on a deeper level. However, a warning about the swimming: the water is beyond freezing. Snowmelt, rain and river waters make up Lake Tahoe, and in case you were wondering, snow water is cold. The lake is also the second deepest lake in the US so it takes a lot of energy and time for the water to heat up. During the summer months the lake water can reach a high of 65 degrees! When I was there in the beginning of summer, it was closer to a brisk 55 degrees. I am a HUGE wimp when it comes to cold water, but somehow my boyfriend convinced me to jump in… and it was SO COLD! It literally took my breath away. So beware…

While jumping in the lake I thought I’d surely touch the bottom, but my eyes were just playing a trick on me due to the clarity of the water. The infamous blue waters of Tahoe are due to the unusual water clarity, with historical records estimating a clarity depth of up to 120 feet. Although the water in Tahoe still has exceptional clarity, today it has decreased to 70 feet. While I was there I could easily spot the crawfish searching for food in 6-foot-deep water, I can’t image the clearness of the water even 20 years ago. The biggest causes of the lake degradation are due to land development and increased nutrient run-off into the lake. Increased nutrient levels in the lake allow the algae to grow, when previously, there was not enough of these nutrients for them to thrive. Fine sediments in the water column also contribute to the decline in clarity by preventing the light to penetrate deep in the water.

Due to these unnatural changes in Lake Tahoe’s waters, the campaign to ‘Keep Tahoe Blue’ started. The mission is to protect and restore the quality of the lake, focusing on water clarity for future generations to enjoy. The campaign brings focus to the issues surrounding the lake through a grassroots movement supported with scientific research and monitoring. After witnessing the beauty of the big blue lake, I now feel even more connected to the cause, to Keep Tahoe Blue. So next time you go to Tahoe, try to enjoy low-impact activities as I did, such as swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing. If boating, remember to stay within posted speed limits and noise limits to not disturb the lake and wildlife. Also, remember to have fun, enjoy all the lake has to offer, and tell someone else about Keep Tahoe Blue so future generations can enjoy the lake as much as we did.

Until the winter, Tahoe!

Learn more about the League to Save Lake Tahoe and support them by buying your sticker here!