Thanks to some historical and record-breaking snowfall (who will ever forget FebruBURIED?!), that continued well into May, the Sierra Nevada is blanketed in a deep snowpack. So much so that, even though it’s June, many mountain lakes are still frozen solid with the summer tourism season about to begin. In the Tahoe Basin specifically, an estimated 150 lakes are solid or covered in thick sheets of ice with their edges just beginning to melt, reports SF Gate.
“The rangers I have who are in the high country have pretty much concluded anything over 7,000 feet in elevation is still frozen,” says Don Lane, supervisory recreation forester for the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe unit. “Lake Tahoe is at 6,200 feet, and the lakes above it in the mountains are all ice. I’ve seen it happen only a few times over the past 40 years,” he added.
Normally at this time of year, many lakes have pretty much thawed from a few warm spells in May. But this year, winter-like storms battered the Sierra through May, and even now storms are continuing to develop over the mountains, keeping the snowpack and the lakes chilly.
The list of frozen lakes is long, but notable ones include Marlette and Spooner on the Eastern Shore and Incline and Watson on the North Shore. To the west in Desolation Wilderness, there are roughly 130 high-country lakes, including the Echo Lakes and Aloha Lakes areas.
“Even as we speak, up at Echo Summit, they’re still struggling with 6 to 8 feet of snow,” he says. “Everywhere you look, all around the lake, there are walls of snow at this moment. And here we are into June.”
Many of these lakes are popular spots for late spring and summer hiking excursions, but Lane says the frozen conditions can be dangerous. Walking across the frozen lakes is extremely dangerous, as is swimming in the freezing water.
“There are people who will occasionally try their luck at walking across the ice and then all of a sudden it becomes brittle and cracks,” he says.