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Boating Lake Tahoe

It’s hard to beat Lake Tahoe for inland boating. Situated at 6,228 feet and spreading 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, Lake Tahoe is North America’s largest alpine lake. There’s more than 70 miles of shoreline. That’s alot of boating!

Two-thirds of Lake Tahoe lies in the state of California, while one-third is in Nevada. With incredible mountain vistas, lots of marinas, and much more, both the California and Nevada sides make for ideal boating destinations.

Though driving, biking, and hiking are great, Lake Tahoe is best seen by boat. In fact, it’s the best way to explore the area. Many sights are best from the water and some, like Fleur du Lac (the stone mansion featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Part II), are only approachable from the lake. Other fascinating places approachable by boat include: the Vikingsholm (a spectacular home that’s now part of Emerald Bay State Park); Fannette Island and it’s teahouse (built by the owner of Vikingsholm); the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion (a huge summer house built in 1903); Tallac Historic Site (four historic summer estates near Camp Richardson Resort); and Cave Rock (a rock formation seen from practically anywhere on the lake).

Most of the lake’s four million annual visitors get on the water at some point, so summer can be pretty busy. However, the lake is large enough to make boating from spring to fall quite enjoyable (and, thanks to temperate weather, quite comfortable air temperatures--though wetsuits are the norm for the cold alpine water!).

The lake’s conditions can vary quickly, so it’s best to be prepared. The mornings can be quite calm, while afternoons can bring wind and whitecaps.

New regulations have restricted engine types, wake zones, excessive noise, and more, but all for the sake of preserving what many consider some of North America’s finest boating. With quiet rocky coves, white sand beaches, world-class marinas, and much to see and do, Lake Tahoe can and will remain a great place to boat.

A tour of Lake Tahoe boating opportunities can start just about anywhere, but the aptly named town of Stateline on the South Shore is a great reference point. From here, proceeding clockwise, boating on Lake Tahoe is easy to review.

The South Shore is a great place from which to start a Lake Tahoe trip, with many public launch ramps and private marinas. From here, the granite peaks of Emerald Bay and California’s Emerald Bay State Park are easy to reach. El Dorado Beach (530/542-6056) is a popular launching point, with full boating facilities, while private marina options along the South Shore include Camp Richardson Marina (530/542-6570), Ski Run Marina Village (530/544-0200), Tahoe Keys Marina (530/541-2155), Timaber Cove Marina (530/544-2942), and Lakeside Marina (530-541-6626) (the last four are in the South Lake Tahoe area, while Camp Richardson is to the west).

The West Shore includes the towns of Meeks Bay, Tahoma, and Homewood. with Obexer’s (530/525-7962) and Homewood High and Dry Marina (530/525-5966) providing full marina services in Homewood and Meeks Bay Marina (530-525-6946) doing the same in for its namesake area. Highlights in this vicinity include convenient access to Tahoe City and points north, as well as the opportunity to take a cruise with Steve Hanst, owner of Classic Cruises (530/525-4055) and his 1936 Stephens Sedan Cruiser.

To the north bustling Tahoe City and the rest of California’s West Shore and North Shore await. There’s public launching at Lake Forest (530/583-5544) in Tahoe City, with plentiful private marina options including Tahoe City Marina (530/583-1039) and Sunnyside Marina (530/583-7417). To the north, heading towards popular Kings Beach, Sierra Boat Company (530/546-2551) in Carnelian Bay and North Tahoe Marina (530/546-8248) in Tahoe Vista await. Kings Beach also offers small boat launching and the popular Kings Beach State Recreation Area.

Back in Nevada, boating along Crystal Bay is some of the best on Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park is a perfect destination (or launching point), with a public launching ramp and nearby Incline Village among the draws. To the south, Glenbrook Bay features some huge homes and great cruising.

Just north of Stateline, the Zephyr Cove area features a public boat ramp operated by Nevada State Parks (775/588-7975), as well as the popular Zephyr Cove Marina (775/588-3833), with full facilities. From here, popular areas like California’s Emerald Bay (covered above) are easily reached.

Thus from Stateline all the way around the lake to Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe offers great boating. Just choose your ramp or marina and hit the lake!


For further boating information, call the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) at (775) 558-4547 or visit their website at www.trpa.org. Another website, www.boattahoe.com, is also an excellent resource.