When it comes to a paddling mecca, the Lake Tahoe Water Trail ranks pretty high up on the list. The views, the impossibly clear waters, and of course amazing weather. With that being said, there are certain things you should be aware of like cold water shock, endangered species to protect, and one you wouldn’t think about, fire in Tahoe.
While Tahoe is home to nearly 37 trillion gallons of water, the surrounding region is especially parched in the summer months. A majority of the precipitation comes during the winter. And so, as the sun reaches its apex, it can create a dangerous recipe for massive wildfires. Even though summer evenings are chilly and the idea of starting a fire in Tahoe sounds like a good one… it isn’t.
Don’t Be The Next Mark Twain
A great example of why you shouldn’t start a fire on the beach can be seen from one of the biggest ambassadors in Tahoe’s history – Mark Twain. On his first visit to Tahoe, he accidentally started a massive fire in the basin. In his words from Roughing It:
“The ground was deeply carpeted with dry pine-needles, and the fire touched them off as if they were gunpowder. It was wonderful to see with what fierce speed the tall sheet of flame traveled! My coffee-pot was gone, and everything with it. In a minute and a half the fire seized upon a dense growth of dry manzanita chaparral six or eight feet high, and then the roaring and popping and crackling was something terrific… we stood helpless and watched the devastation…. we were driven to the boat by the intense heat, and there we remained, spellbound.”
While he may have made it sound magical, it isn’t. In today’s day and age, there are hundreds of thousands of people visiting and living in the region. If a careless camper or kayaker started a fire like this, it would cause even greater destruction. Not to mention the likelihood of being jailed or worse.
What Should You Do
One of the first things to do is to check the fire danger rating for the day. You can find the latest information on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Homepage. Based on the fuels, weather, topography, and risks available, this gives you an idea of the potential for a fire to ignite, spread, and if needed suppress. They’ll also tell you specifically where and what type of fires are allowed or if NO open flames of any kind including propane ones at home are restricted.
In summary, it’s up to us to be stewards of the lake and the surrounding communities. This means watching out for the Tahoe yellow cress, being a Tahoe Keeper, and to leave no trace. If you want to learn more about how you can help keep Tahoe beautiful for future generations, be sure to read our article: Keeping Lake Tahoe Blue Is More Than A Bumper Sticker.
The Lake Tahoe Water Trail is a Sierra Business Council sustainable recreation tourism project. Learn more about SBC's innovative social, environmental and economic development projects in the Sierra Nevada at www.sierrabusiness.org.