As boating season heats up in Northern Nevada, Lake Tahoe water temperatures hover in the low- to mid-60s, prompting officials to remind boaters to wear life jackets and plan for the weather on early boating season outings.
There have been several boating fatalities over the past few years at Lake Tahoe that are attributed primarily to cold water, particularly among tourists and others unused to Tahoe's water temperature.
Cold water shock is a syndrome that can sometimes incapacitate even a good swimmer when surprised by very low water temperatures. Even in the summer months, Tahoe's water temperature can lead to cold water shock and hypothermia.
"Lake Tahoe is a one of the most beautiful places to boat in the world," said Jay Howard, park supervisor for Sand Harbor State Park. "But, so many people aren't aware of the dangers of cold water or the unique nature of boating in a lake like Tahoe. We just ask boaters, swimmers and anyone visiting the lake to prepare for cold water."
In addition to the cold water, the winds at Lake Tahoe can start blowing ferociously with very little warning.
With mountain winds, cold water and high altitudes, not all boaters are always prepared.
Even as conditions improve, the wind is always unpredictable and the water temperature just under the surface never warms up, making for difficult conditions all summer.
"We will be out all summer, not to just patrol for violations of the law, but we also want to be available when boaters have problems or questions," said Lt. Paul Dankowski, the game warden at the Nevada Department of Wildlife responsible for boating law enforcement on Lake Tahoe. "Every year we see a dozen serious and even fatal accidents because some boaters did not expect the conditions that we always see on Lake Tahoe."
Cold water and no life jacket can be a lethal combination, but there are many other important issues regarding boating safety, and boaters are encouraged to learn before going boating or fishing.
Boaters interested in taking an in-class boating safety course can contact the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary at 852-5557. To learn more about boating in Nevada, boaters can visit www.
ndow.org or call the Department of Wildlife at 688-1500.