The first inhabitants of Lake Tahoe were the semi-nomadic Washoe Indians who would migrate to the lake when the snow started to melt. The men would spend the summers fishing and hunting small game while the women wove baskets and gathered pine nuts. The lake was a spiritual place with healing powers for the Washoe, where they could rid themselves of worries and concerns. The name Tahoe is a derivation of their name for the lake, Da-ow-a-ga.
For the past hundred plus years Lake Tahoe has remained a popular summertime destination, although there’s plenty to do in the winter also. For the first half of the last century visitors were mainly from San Francisco. For the last 50 years, folks have traveled in from around the world. “That water is cold!” is many people’s first reaction when sticking a toe in the lake. It is mostly snowmelt, after all. The average surface temperature is 52°F, getting to a high of about 65°F by mid-July. But that doesn’t stop people from diving in and swimming and snorkeling and floating out on inflatables.
There aren’t too many publicly accessible points to the lake along the shores of Crystal Bay, but a little drive down the east shore from Incline Village provides many. Sand Harbor is the easiest to get to, but you can pretty much park at any (legal) turnout along Highway 28 and, with a little hike, be cooling your feet in the lake in minutes.
Canoes and kayaks are still common sights on the water, but it seems that the standup paddleboard has taken over as the dominant form of transportation/recreation on Lake Tahoe. Morning glass makes the lake perfect for waterskiing, wakeboarding and kneeboarding – just beware the afternoon breeze that usually blows in, roiling the surface. In the fall, with a storm blowing in, you may see a few dedicated souls out surfing the breakers.
You can still fish Lake Tahoe, like the Washoe did, from atop the boulders along the East Shore or out in a boat. Just take a moment when you’re there to stare across the big blue or downward into her crystal clear depths, and feel the worries and concerns lifting right up off your shoulders.