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150 lakes in Lake Tahoe Basin still frozen in June 2019, solid ice or covered in thick sheets of ice-San Francisco Chronicle

June 6, 2019

6/5/19, “150 lakes in the Tahoe Basin are still frozen, and it’s June,” San Francisco Chronicle, Amy Graff

Image: “Playing in powder: Kirkwood Ski Resort got fresh snow dump on May 16, 2019. (Photos taken by First Track Productions)”

“With the Sierra Nevada…mountain range is blanketed in a hefty snowpack. Many mountain lakes are still frozen solid even though it’s the first week of June and the summer tourism season is kicking off. In the Tahoe Basin specifically, an estimated 150 lakes are solid or covered in thick sheets of ice with their edges just beginning to melt.

“The rangers I have who are in the high country have pretty much concluded anything over 7,000 feet in elevation is still frozen, says Don Lane, supervisory recreation forester for the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe unit. “Lake Tahoe is at 6,200 feet, and the lakes above it in the mountains are all ice.”

This isn’t typical, at least in recent decades. “I’ve seen it happen only a few times over the past 40 years,” he says.

Usually by June, many lakes have mostly thawed from a few warm spells in May, but this year, unseasonably cool winter-like storms battered the Sierra through May. It even snowed on Memorial Day. Into the first week of June, storms are continuing to develop over the mountains, keeping the snowpack and the lakes chilly.

“Here we are into June now, and we’re still experiencing these storms,” says Lane. “When I’m looking out the window now, I see blue sky but also these big roiling clouds over the mountains.”

The list of frozen lakes is long, but notable ones include Marlette and Spooner on the Eastern Shore, and Incline and Watson on the North Shore. To the west in Desolation Wilderness, there are roughly 130 high-country lakes, including the Echo Lakes and Aloha Lakes areas.

“Even as we speak, up at Echo Summit, they’re still struggling with 6 to 8 feet of snow,” he says.Everywhere you look, all around the lake, there are walls of snow at this moment. And here we are into June.”

Many of these lakes are popular spots for late spring and summer hiking excursions, but Lane says the frozen conditions can be dangerous.

“There are people who will occasionally try their luck at walking across the ice and then all of a sudden it becomes brittle and cracks,” he says.

Lane also advises against swimming in icy lakes. Just this week, he received a call from a Tahoe visitor who tried exactly that.

“He called to say, ‘I was up at Eagle Lake in the Emerald Bay Area and I broke the ice to try to go swimming,” Lane explains. “Then he asked, ‘Can you tell me how cold the water is?’ I told him that since water freezes at 32 degrees, he should be able to figure out roughly what the temperature was.”

Tahoe resident Anthony Capaiuolo was at Fourth of July Lake and Emigrant Lake at 8,500 feet near Kirkwood in May, and says conditions were safe for him and his friends to ski across.

“There was just a bit of melting on the edges, and I imagine it’s still something like that,” says Capaiuolo, a videographer and photographer for First Tracks Productions. “We had such a gray spring. We didn’t get as much sun on the lakes as we would in a typical spring. We got more snow especially up high, and with all that snow, it kept things from melting out.”” …California map noting Lake Tahoe basin from wikipedia

 

 

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