See Tahoe up close on the M.S. Dixie II |

See Tahoe up close on the M.S. Dixie II

Richard Moreno
Special to the Appeal
Richard Moreno/Nevada Appeal The M.S. Dixie paddlewheeler offers some of the best views of beautiful Lake Tahoe.

It’s hard to find a better view of Lake Tahoe than the one you can get from the decks of the M.S. Dixie II paddlewheeler.

In fact, the M.S. Dixie II is perhaps the best place to enjoy the panoramic views of a place that writer Mark Twain once described as “the fairest picture the whole earth affords.”

The Dixie II cruise starts out from a dock at the Zephyr Cove Marina, about 20 miles west of Carson City via Highway 50.

As passengers stroll down the long wooden dock that leads to the paddlewheeler, there is an air of anticipation, which seems to intensify after having a photo snapped (souvenir shots can be purchased) and being led across the gangplank onto the ship.

You can either choose a seat inside of an enclosed, climate-controlled deck or the open-air upper decks.

Within a few minutes, the engines begin to throb, and the big craft pulls out into the clear waters of the lake. An informative narration begins that describes the history and geology of Lake Tahoe.

The M.S. Dixie II is a relatively new paddlewheeler, having gone into operation in 1994. It replaced the original M.S. Dixie, a smaller paddlewheeler that had operated from 1972 to 1993.

The new stern-wheeler, which has three decks and is 151 feet long, can accommodate up to 570 passengers.

From Zephyr Cove, the ship glides across Lake Tahoe, offering marvelous views of the surrounding peaks, including Mount Tallac (the tallest mountain directly west of Lake Tahoe).

It’s a peaceful journey across one of the most scenic lakes in America.

About 45 minutes into the trip, the boat enters Emerald Bay, which is perhaps the most photographed spot on Lake Tahoe.

The sheltered bay was beautiful on the day of our journey. Surrounded by steep mountains covered with tall pines, it is a perfect scene.

At the western edge of the bay is Vikingsholm, a castle-like mansion constructed in the 1930s, which is now a California state park.

In the middle of the bay is Fannette Island, topped by a quaint, small, stone teahouse, visible from the boat. The Dixie II lazily circles Emerald Bay before heading back out into the lake for the return voyage to Zephyr Cove.

At this point, a unique film called “The Sunken Treasures of Lake Tahoe” begins on monitors throughout the vessel.

The 20-minute film includes underwater footage of intriguing rock formations, canyons, petrified trees, sunken boats and other debris found beneath the lake’s surface.

• Richard Moreno is the author of “Backyard Travels in Northern Nevada” and “The Roadside History of Nevada.”