While attending my nephew’s graduation at the University of Nevada in Reno, I spent this past weekend on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. I spent much of my outdoor childhood in the area hiking, skiing, camping, and backpacking. The Sierra Nevada was my backyard wilderness while growing up, so I was looking forward to my visit to the Lake.
Ascending the mountain through Virginia City, the drive was beautiful and scenic. There was one noticeable element that was missing during the drive – SNOW. You could see patches on the upper ridges, but it was something that I’d never experienced before. Not to sound too alarmist, but I’ve been going to Lake Tahoe for over 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.
The North Shore and Incline Village area received only 3% of its normal snow fall. I remember usually at this time of year this rustic community would be thawing from the winter with patches of dirty snow everywhere, but there was no snow to be found this time. Although it rained over the weekend and a dusting of snow fell in the mountains, the Tahoe basin felt dry, empty, and quiet.
I could even see the drought stress showing on a few of the large native Ponderosa Pine. Not a good sign. Lake Tahoe’s water level was so low that most of the private boat docks and ramps were unusable since the lake shore was over one hundred feet away. I stopped by one of the Nevada State Parks and found closed boat launching ramps, protruding boulders from the lake surface, and unusually wide beaches. The Park Ranger told me the boat launch area has been closed since mid-summer last year and is not schedule to be open anytime soon. It was sad to see the impact of the drought on the environment, ecology, community and it’s local economy. I know it is more distressing news, but it is critical that we continue to make present the caring of our sacred natural resource—water…