INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Lake Tahoe. It’s known as the “Jewel of the Sierra” and is one of the deepest and clearest lakes in California. Aside from jumping in, the best way to experience the clear water is inside a clear kayak.
Geoff Miller is a kayak guide with Clearly Tahoe, an adventure company offering tours of Tahoe’s clear water in their unique transparent kayaks.
“These boats are made out of a polycarbonate plastic, the same material used in aircraft windows,” said Miller.
Clearly Tahoe is focused on teaching its riders about the lake water and why it is so clean.
“The purity level is 99.994% pure and distilled drinking water is 99.98%, so it's pretty close,” said Miller.
While it’s not recommended you drink the lake water, you technically could and there’s plenty of it.
“They say that this lake has enough water to supply every person in the United States for five gallons of water every day for the next five years,” said Miller.
If you want to see Lake Tahoe at its clearest, Miller says you should come in winter or early spring. In fact, researchers from UC Davis announced spring 2023 is the clearest they’ve seen the lake in over 40 years. They were able to see down 115 feet from the surface.
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One of the best places to see the depths of the lake is at Bonsai Rock. From the surface of the lake, the round granite boulders below create a stunning contrast to the sandy lakebed which seems to sparkle with every ripple in the water.
As clear as the water is, you will not be able to see to the deepest part of the lake, which is more than 1,600 feet below the surface. It leaves plenty of space for fish and other aquatic life to hide.
Miller likes to tell kayakers on his tour about the mysterious monster lurking in the water known as "Tahoe Tessie." Never before photographed and rarely seen, Tahoe Tessie has been said to live in the lake.
“She only likes to eat people in clear kayaks and paddle boarders,” said Miller.
Although Tahoe Tessie has not been photographed, some other lake monsters have.
“We have the zooplankton that have made a drastic comeback,” said Miller.
Zooplankton in Lake Tahoe are microscopic animals feeding on fine particles and algae in the water. Miller says previous years of warm weather and other causes minimized the population until this year.
It takes more than zooplankton to keep Tahoe’s water clean. Over the past few decades, invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasian Milfoil have threatened Tahoe’s health and clarity. They are brought in by boats or water toys that have been in other infected lakes.
Miller says now more than ever it’s the job of humans to keep the Tahoe Clean.
“Clean, drain and dry your personal vessels. You don’t want to be bringing any of those invasive species in. Also, if you pack it in, pack it out,” said Miller.
Tours with Clearly Tahoe are by reservation only. Check availability on their website.
MORE LAKESIDE ADVENTURES FROM THE BACKROADS: Take a balloon ride over Tahoe, launched from the world's smallest aircraft carrier.