The temperature of Lake Tahoe is cold and anyone venturing into the water should be prepared.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

On Memorial Day weekend, people will flock to Lake Tahoe for the unofficial start of summer.

Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember American military personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. It is also an opportunity to escape for a long weekend.

“We are anticipating a large influx of visitors to the Lake Tahoe Basin this Memorial Day weekend,” said Lisa Herron, public affairs specialist with the USDA Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. . “Visitors should expect crowded roads, parking areas, trails, trailheads and recreation areas. To ensure an enjoyable weekend, plan ahead, know before you go, be patient, arrive early, and always recreate responsibly.

Whether it’s boating, swimming or hiking, there are some things everyone should know to stay safe and prevent a day of fun from turning into a trip to the ER, or worse.

Memorial Day in Tahoe is traditionally cold and this year it looks like there will be sunshine and seasonally high temperatures, but also a chance of thunderstorms with rain and snow, at higher elevations, possible.

Anyone recreating at Lake Tahoe should check weather reports, especially before heading out on the lake.

“Boating-related injuries can vary in nature and severity,” said Dr. Targhee Oeveraas, Medical Director of Barton’s Emergency Department. “On the minor level, we will often see slips and falls related to the slippery surface of the boat or dock or severe sunburn caused by increased UV radiation. Every summer, Barton treats boating trauma, including propeller contact injuries and cold water immersion or hypothermia.

Most of the incidents that occur each year can be avoided by doing research before heading out on the lake on a boat, jet ski or paddle board.

According to Chief Colt Fairchild, officer in charge of the United States Coast Guard station at Lake Tahoe, “All sailors should check the weather report before leaving the dock. The National Weather Service will allow a user to check the marine forecast for any weather event in the area. Lake Wind Advisory, issued by the National Weather Service and will normally impact small boats, kayakers and paddlers, it is recommended that these types of vessels remain off Lake Tahoe until the weather improves. is improving.

In addition to doing your homework, it is essential that your boat is equipped with the safety items required in case of an emergency. This of course includes Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III or V life jackets. Lifejackets must not show any rips, tears or signs of damage. Other equipment required includes a whistle or other noise-making device to alert other boaters to your presence. Any type of water activity at night requires a flashlight/spotlight. Flashing red lights are considered a sign that someone is in distress.

If you use a boat or jet ski of any kind, it is recommended that you take the time to learn lifesaving techniques such as CPR. It can mean the difference between life and death in minutes.

Kayakers and paddleboarders might consider taking a water and paddling safety clinic at one of Tahoe’s Lake Tahoe paddle shops and outfitters.

One thing that should always be kept in mind when it comes to Lake Tahoe is that it is cold all year round. Thus, occurrences of hypothermia and cold water shock are common. Hypothermia can set in in water at 70 degrees. Signs of hypothermia include chills, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, blue discoloration of the lips or skin, and drowsiness.

South Lake Tahoe Fire Captain Kim George, paramedic and registered nurse, said, “Rapid cooling of the skin triggers an immediate response to panting, inability to hold breath, and hyperventilation. The gasping response can cause drowning if the head is submerged on initial cold water entry. The inability to hold the breath will drown the person. Sudden death can occur immediately or a few minutes after immersion.

Apart from wind and weather advisories, accidents can usually be avoided by following the rules of the lake. In addition to wearing your life jackets at all times and making sure all children in your care wear their life jackets, don’t drink while operating a boat.

Dr. Oeveraas added that “alcohol is the main contributing factor to boating accidents; which is exacerbated by the sun and high altitude.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol is the largest known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for more than 100 fatalities, or 18% of total fatalities in 2020.

Other violations include ignoring wake zones and buoys.

“No revival means no revival,” George said. “If the boat is moving at a speed that produces a wake, it will have to slow down. This is mandatory so that the boats in the holds are not damaged in the docks and the docks remain stable. If there is a wake, someone standing on a dock could be knocked over and fall into the water. Stay between the buoys and keep the red buoy on the right.

Additionally, areas marked with white buoys indicate underwater obstructions that can damage the boat’s hull. These white buoys must be kept between the ship and the shore.

To help keep boaters up to date with rules and regulations, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency recently released a free app that includes interactive maps for boaters and paddlers. The free Tahoe Boating app is available in online app stores or on the TRPA website

The Coast Guard also has an app available on Apple and Android that contains “rules of the road” and other useful information for mariners.

These rules and regulations are put in place for your safety and that of other boaters sharing the lake.

“Station Lake Tahoe responds to approximately 75 to 120 search and rescue cases each year, with 95% of those cases occurring during the months of May through September,” Fairchild said.

Knowing what to do in an emergency will give you the advantage of saving your own life or someone else’s.

People are enjoying the beach this week at Lakeview Commons in South Lake Tahoe.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Most beaches and campgrounds in the Lake Tahoe National Forest opened in mid-May, but some backcountry campgrounds, recreation sites, forest gates and forest roads are still closed. Check the opening dates on the LTBMU Leisure Conditions Report. Forest gates and forest paths are being opened. Check the opening dates on the LTBMU Motor Vehicle Use Maps.

The Tallac Historic Site and Taylor Creek Visitor Center officially open June 2, but the grounds are open. Until these sites are fully open, some services such as restrooms and trash removal are not available, so be sure to plan ahead and put away all trash.

Campfires, charcoal and fireworks

Visitors are reminded to do their part to prevent forest fires. If you see something, say something by immediately reporting any illegal activity to 911.

Lake Tahoe National Forest Lands are subject to year-round fire restrictions. Wood and charcoal fires are only permitted in the metal fire pits and grills provided in open and serviced campgrounds. Unless restricted, propane stoves and appliances with on/off valves are permitted with a valid CA Campfire Permit.

All types of fireworks for personal use are illegal in the Lake Tahoe Basin due to the wildfire danger they pose to our communities. Please do the forests of Lake Tahoe a favor and leave the fireworks at home.


Lake Tahoe is bear country. Help keep Tahoe bears wild by properly securing food, garbage, and other scented items. Never approach bears or cubs, always keep your distance. Do not feed bears or other wildlife, it is illegal. Feeding wildlife encourages them to enter human-occupied areas to look for food and human garbage and disrupts their natural feeding habits.

Caldor Fire Zone

Recreation enthusiasts should exercise caution when recreating in the Caldor Fire area. Burnt landscapes present many safety hazards that either did not exist before the fire or have been made worse by the effects of the fire.

Leave no trace

The trash and debris left behind can be harmful and even deadly to wildlife. It poses a hazard to human health and degrades Lake Tahoe. Each year, volunteers pick up thousands of pounds of trash left behind after holiday weekends. Plan ahead and bring a trash bag in case the trash cans and dumpsters are full or not or not available. Be part of the solution. Pack your own garbage. To learn more about the Leave No Trace principles, visit

Sara Jackson is a freelance writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun.