LAKE TAHOE — The surge in popularity of stand-up paddleboarding in recent years has led to an influx of paddlers on the waters of Lake Tahoe during the summer.
The Lake Tahoe Water Trail aims to lend clarity to navigating North America’s largest alpine lake with a paddleboard or kayak via instruction and education.
“People are coming to Tahoe in droves to get on the lake, and they need to know where to access it,” said Becky Bell, project manager for the trail. “It’s all about access. The Water Trail allows the public — primarily visitors — to know where to launch and where to land.”
Lake Tahoe Water Trail is a 72-mile route around the lake that was created in 2003 through efforts from California Tahoe Conservancy and volunteer organization Lake Tahoe Water Trail Association.
Last year, the conservancy selected Truckee-based Sierra Business Council to promote the water trail — the latest trail network in the basin.
“The lake is a sanctuary and everybody wants to get on there,” Bell said. “It’s a safe and responsible way to have a safe and fun attraction — we’re hoping it helps people learn how to navigate.”
Bell said the aim of Lake Tahoe Water Trail is to help paddlers and kayakers become “mountain mariners,” and enjoy their time on the lake beyond the swim line while doing so safely.
The showpiece of that mission is a 24-by-37-inch color trail map and guide, a waterproof work of art that breaks the lake down into extensive detail.
“All these land managers and lakefront property owners agreed that it was time to help paddlers find their way,” Bell said. “Everybody shows up and wonders where to go and what to do.”
The current map, last revised in 2012, is on sale at local paddleboard shops for $11.99 with proceeds supporting water safety and aquatic invasive species prevention.
It’s a valuable tool that features detailed information for Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake and includes underwater and land topography, GPS coordinates, latitude and longitude grids, public launch and landing sights, and points of interest.
“With all the people, we really need to have a wayfinding trail system,” Bell said. “It’s kind of like the Tahoe Rim Trail for the water.”
The map and LTWT’s website break the lake down into seven day trips ranging from 8.5 to 15 miles, such as Cave Rock to Zephyr Cove Resort (10 miles), Kiva Beach to Rubicon Point through Emerald Bay (10 miles), and Incline Village to Sand Harbor (15 miles).
Bell said the trail’s website serves as its core informational tool, with information about the lake and its conditions along with safety and regulations.
The group’s core message is “Be prepared, be aware,” which means to treat a day on the lake with similar reverence to a backcountry skiing trip in the winter while carrying a lifejacket, floatation device and flashlight.
“We want people to have a safe and fun adventure, but first we want them to check the weather,” Bell said. “We want people to check marine conditions first and plan ahead.”
LTWT’s latest project is informational signs at 20 launching points around the lake, featuring a local map, safety messages and contact information in case of an emergency.
The program will launch with six signs on the North Shore this summer, and the first one is expected to go up soon at Lake Forest Boat Ramp in Tahoe City.
Sign design was funded by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Environmental Improvement Program and Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association, while production of the first six signs was made possible by a grant from North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and Placer County.
Funding and production for the first phase was approved July 1, and the six signs will be placed by the end of summer. Bell said the plan is to have all 20 signs in place lakewide by 2018..