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Touring Tahoe by kayak.

LAKE TAHOE HAS often been called a boater, s paradise. For kayakers,the vast mountain lake approaches nirvana. Portable and easy to use, kayaks allow you to escape the crowds and explore the lake's quiet and secluded shores, where your only company might be an osprey or an eagle.

I recently spent a weekend kayaking Lake Tahoe, joining two guided day tours and squeezing in an overnight stay at a boat-in campground. The first tour, run by Kayak Tahoe, started on the beach at D. L. Bliss State Park, on the lake's southwestern shore. After a brief orientation and safety talk, we slid our kayaks into the lake and paddled south along the shoreline, past car-size boulders, forests of fir and sugar pine, and a pair of ospreys nesting atop a huge snag. The crystal-clear waters beneath my boat plunged from sandy-bottomed shallows to unknown depths, changing hue from an ethereal green to a velvet blue.

During a midday lunch stop at a sandy beach on Emerald Bay, we watched two elegant stern-wheelers churn by. Our afternoon route brought us around the bay past tiny Fannette Island, past Vikingsholm (a historic Scandinavian-style mansion), and to Eagle Point at the mouth of the bay, where a mama merganser and her obedient brood weaved between shoreline rocks. Our 7 1/2-mile-long paddle ended amid sunbathers, swimmers, water scooters, and live music at Camp Richardson Resort.

Later that afternoon, I packed up two rental kayaks with camping supplies and paddled back to Emerald Bay with my wife and my niece and nephew (ages 12 and 13), who shared a triple-cockpit boat. We camped at Emerald Bay State Park's boat-in campground, under whistling yellow pines and cedars.

The following day, I headed up to the north shore to join a tour run by Tahoe Paddle and Oar, based at the North Tahoe Beach Center in Kings Beach. Setting out from the wide beach behind the center, we paddled toward the California-Nevada border at Brockway Point, where we explored a jumbled maze of giant, half-submerged granite boulders along a sandy beach. We continued on to another rocky promontory before returning to Kings Beach--a 2 1/2-mile paddle in all.

Then it was back to the "real world." I took with me a pleasant soreness in my paddling muscles and memories of pristine shoreline as mementoes of my brief but heavenly escape.

Kayak tours, rentals

For boating conditions, call the Coast Guard's Lake Tahoe Station at (916) 583-4433. Call the companies below for minimum ages of children allowed on tours.

Kayak Tahoe. Box 11129, Tahoe Paradise, Calif. 96155; (916) 544-2011. Day and overnight tours cost $25 to $125; most popular is the Emerald Bay tour ($45). Rental prices start at $10 an hour for a sit-on-top or traditional enclosed-cockpit kayak.

Tahoe Paddle and Oar, Box 7212, Tahoe City, Calif. 96145; 581-3029. The tour to Brockway Point costs $45; a brunch paddle to La Playa restaurant in Tahoe Vista also costs $45. Kayak rentals start at $10 an hour. The company also offers canoe tours and rentals ($15 an hour).

Paddle-in camping

The boat-in campground at Emerald Bay State Park is operated on a first-come, first-served basis. Overnight fee is $9 per site. For details, call the park at 541-3030.
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Title Annotation:Lake Tahoe, California
Author:Davidson, Ben
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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