RENO, Nev. — As the boating and beach season kicks off at Lake Tahoe, there’s lots of beach but a little less boating.
The lake’s water level is the lowest it’s been in years — 6,225.06 feet above sea level, more than a foot below water levels recorded at the same time last year. By November, the lake is expected to drop below its natural rim of 6,223 feet for the first time since 1994.
While that means more sandy beaches for sunbathers, it means more rocks and other shallow-water obstructions that can ruin a boater’s day.
“People need to be careful,” said Chief Jim DeVane of Lake Tahoe’s U.S. Coast Guard station.
In Tahoe City, Calif., Paul Niwano of Tahoe Water Adventures has the evidence stacked up on his counter — costly boat propellers dinged and shredded from hitting rocks.
Low water levels also are plaguing boaters in places such as Washoe Lake State Park, where the main boat ramp is closed.
“It’s very shallow. It just isn’t recommended to launch boats, even small ones,” said park aide Albert Lea. Boat ramps are open at Stampede Reservoir near Truckee, Calif., but water is low.
The situation is far better at some other popular boating lakes such as Boca Reservoir, where higher water levels are expected to be maintained most of the summer for boaters, according to federal Water Master Garry Stone.
Lahontan Reservoir is also in good shape as the holiday approaches, with both boat ramps open and boating activity picking up.
John Packer of Zephyr Cove has lived at Lake Tahoe for nearly 30 years and has seen low lake levels before, particularly a decade ago when Tahoe dropped below its natural rim several years in a row during eight years of drought.
“Its nothing like that yet,” Packer said. “The lake at this point looks pretty good.”
But Packer said he’s glad his speedboat is moored to a buoy fairly far offshore. He also plans to keep a wary eye out for rocks and other obstacles while cruising the lake this summer.
“You’ve just got to be careful,” Packer said. “You’ve got to be cognizant of the fact the lake is lower.”