Sand Harbor is a small beach along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. Though located on the Nevada side. Sand Harbor is the place many Californians get their first experience diving Tahoe’s clear, fresh waters. A spacious parking lot is adjacent to the shore. It’s roomy enough to change in and out of your gear, and there is a bathroom with hot showers nearby.
Once suited up, my dive partner, Kevin, and I take a short walk, leading down a dirt pathway to the small cove just north of the parking lot. An inlet created by a line of boulders makes an excellent wading pool to make a final check of our gear before venturing out into the open water of the cove. Because of its ease of access, Sand Harbor is a favorite area for local scuba instructors and their students from nearby communities such as Reno, Carson City, and Sacramento.
Keeping to the right portion of the cove, a line of jumbled boulders contrasts the flat sandy bottom. Small caves and narrow channels provide us with an interesting diversion. Swimmers splash on the surface and dive into the water from high rocks above us. Turning south, we move out of the cove and to the deeper parts of the lake. Like a miniature lobster, a sharp clawed crayfish scuttles along the bottom. They raise their sharp studded claws in defiance at our approach, only to dart quickly away with a flick of its tail.
The angle begins to drop as we descend. It’s easy to forget this is a high altitude dive so caution must be taken when at depth. Altitude diving practices must be considered and planned. Kevin and I keep an eye on our dive computers. The nearest recompression chamber is miles away in Sacramento. We stop at 80 feet near a sharp boulder.
The clarity of Lake Tahoe is some of the best in the US. Above us, we see the wakes of swift moving speed boats criss-crossing the surface of the lake. A long column of rainbow trout drifts past, their dark eyes studying us dispassionately. My throat feels parched from the dry air of my scuba tank. When I remember we’re in a fresh water lake, I take the regulator from my mouth and take sip. A few minutes more and we have to leave. With Kevin in the lead, we swim leisurely, following a straighter course toward shore occasionally moving over large sunken logs. Returning to the main cove, the waters are populated with instructors and students. Watching the students sharing regulators and trying to follow a straight line with a compass, it brought back distant memories of my first dives in the sea, 200 miles away.
Kevin and I surface amid a crowd of wide-eyed children, inner tubes and rubber rafts. A short walk up the beach and we are back to our car. After stowing our gear we start the long drive home. We have drunk the waters of Lake Tahoe and won’t even have to rinse our gear.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: Sand Harbor State Park is located 5 miles south of Incline Village, Nevada—off Highway 28. There is a $6.00 entrance fee May through September; $3.00 October through April. ($75.00 fine if you don’t pay).
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced.
Depth: 30 feet inner cove, 100 plus outer cove.
Visibility: 70 feet.
Photography: Great for wide-angle but don’t miss out on macro portraits of crayfish.