Low Water Levels Prompt Closures of Lake Tahoe Boat Launches

Alex Mangels | | BrainsBrains
Lake Tahoe Boat launch
The El Dorado Beach boat launch is among the few that will be closed for the 2021 season. Credit: tahoesouth.com

Days spent out on the water are a summer staple at Lake Tahoe. When the weather warms up, people flock to the lake with their boats in tow, sights set on a day of cruising, water-skiing, or fishing. However, things will look different this summer as low water levels prompt officials to close certain boat launches at Lake Tahoe.

Most of the western United States is experiencing severe levels of drought, causing water levels to drop and minimal ground moisture to suffer. Lake Tahoe is no exception, with the region labeled as in a severe drought. Not only does this increase fire danger and affect water supplies, but drought also impacts our recreational activities. Some boat ramps on the north and south shores of the lake will be closed for the 2021 boating season.

Lake Tahoe water levels.
Lake Tahoe water levels have declined for the past year. Note: Lake elevation = 6,220 + Gage Height. Credit: US Geological Survey

The decision to close several boat ramps comes as Lake Tahoe drops to levels not seen since the drought of 2015. The US Geological Survey reports that the lake’s water level has been dropping since last summer. However, winter rainfall has not been enough to slow the fall, as levels are approaching the lake’s natural rim of 6,223-feet.

“The water level in the lake fluctuates from year to year depending on winter snowfall and snowpack. At this time, the water is too low to safely launch a motorized boat at this location.”

– South Lake Tahoe official statement on El Dorado Beach ramp closure.

The boat launch site at El Dorado Beach on Tahoe’s south shore will be closed for the season. On the north shore, boat launches at Kings Beach and Tahoe Vista Recreation Area will also close. Some public boat ramps will remain open, while most private launch facilities operate normally this summer. Sand Harbor (Incline Village), Lake Forest Beach (north shore), Obexer’s (west shore), and Cave Rock (east shore) will all have boat ramps open to the public.

What does this mean for summer at the lake? First of all, those who store their boat at their homes and rely on public access will have fewer places to get onto the lake. We will undoubtedly see an increase in crowds at the few open launch sites, leading to increased traffic and parking issues. People who can afford to store their boats at different marinas and private facilities will have a leg up on getting out onto the lake. We may see fewer boats on the lake, but will it be worth the log jams caused by overzealous boaters?

Tahoe precipitation
The 8-station index for the Northern Sierra tracks water-year precipitation. Credit: KXTV

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