If you have a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board, now is a wonderful time to launch into one of the great lakes in the high country.
There are quite a few choices. Each one comes with its own beauty and splendiforousness. Here are four of the many that offer a great time on the water, in different ways.
If you are in the Sacramento/El Dorado county area, the mountain lake that is closest is Sly Park, in Pollock Pines. It has a boat ramp at the front, and a launch point in the back as well. It will cost you to get in, but the drive from most places around Sacramento and Placerville is relatively short.
Launching your kayak, canoe or SUP at the front boat ramp means you’ll be in the same place as the water skiers and other powered boats. If you don’t like the wakes that result from powered boats, go to the back and launch there.
There’s still motor boats back there, but there is a 5 mph speed limit, and you won’t have to deal with any big wakes rolling around.
If you’d like to get in the higher reaches of the mountain, head to the Crystal Basin. You have a few choices up there: Ice House, Union Valley, Gerle Creek, and Loon lakes.
Loon is a great choice. It’s big, and has an extraordinary shoreline. You may want to launch at the boat ramp, which will cost you, or head over the dam to the other side, where there is a dirt ramp that is available.
Paddling about at Loon can simply be an afternoon of exploring what is closest to where you launch, or it can be a fun trek to the back end of the lake, or an overnight camping experience.
There is another world at the back of Loon Lake. Inlets, coves, fantastic rocks, nooks and crannies abound. Especially in a kayak or canoe, your ability to skim into some shallow spots is well rewarded with the terrain that will surround you.
At around 2 or 3 pm the wind will probably kick up, and it can be a hard paddle getting back. Take your time, you’ll make it.
Wrights Lake, a bit higher up, is a stunner. No motors of any kind are allowed in Wrights. That includes electric trolling motors. None. Zero.
You get there by going up the Wrights Lake Road from Highway 50, or from Ice House road.
Wrights is a relatively shallow lake. The front end of it has Forest Service Lease cabins on two sides of the shore. Just paddling past them, slowly, is a bit of treat, no matter how many times you do it. There are great rocks to glide past or to look at as you glide over them.
Head to the back of the lake, go under the Chappell Crossing bridge, and you’ll have a wonderful time in the canals back there. You’ll find that your way will be blocked after the second bridge due to trees in the water.
No matter. Turn around and paddle on back. Explore the area and enjoy the ducks and geese that float around back there. The entire lake is simply wonderful for kayaks, canoes and SUP’s.
The last one is the big one. Lake Tahoe. It is very different than the others mentioned here. Size and depth is just one of the differences.
In summer, there is a lot of traffic on the lake. There are very large, and very fast boats, stern wheelers chugging away, as well as an assortment of sailboats and smaller, still fast, boats, along with kayaks, canoes, and SUP’s.
You’ll find that your kayak or canoe or SUP can get bounced around a bit when one of the bigs, seemingly far away, powers down the lake.
The rolling wakes they kick up can be a bit weird if you are new to kayaks or canoes or SUP’s. Stay calm, head in to them, and you should be OK.
Launch at Pope or Baldwin Beaches, Camp Rich, or at Meeks Bay, Obexers, or Bliss State Park. There are many other spots, but you’ll need to search for those on your own.
If you don’t own a kayak, canoe, or SUP, you’ll be able to rent one at most launch sites in the Tahoe Basin, and at Sly Park.
Always wear a PFD, personal flotation device, when you are on any body of water with your kayak, canoe or SUP. Stay aware of what’s going on around you.
If things on the lake get too choppy, or the sky turns blue-black with the wind blowing, paddle quickly back to shore. It’s no fun to be caught out on the open water with a storm brewing.