At over 2000 metres above sea level the magnificent Lake Tahoe, in the hills of California and Nevada is a beautiful site. It is the largest alpine lake in North America and in the summer the water temperature regularly climbs above 20 degrees Celsius. So what does a diver do when they see a large body of water? Why go altitude diving of course!
There are over 30 dive sites scattered across the lake including a special underwater park zoned by the state just for divers. This park is possibly the best dive in the lake, whilst it may be difficult to find your way out there as the only access is via boat or kayak it is well worth the effort. The paddle takes about an hour each way, the time flies by as you check out the incredible mountain ranges that occur in every direction.
Once you arrive at the dive site marker buoy you can either gear up alongside the kayak or pull it ashore onto one of the nearby rocky beaches and gear up stress free. The surface swim from the beach takes no more than five minutes so is a great option.
You descend into the crystal waters of the lake onto multiple pieces of large timber wreckage. The thermo clines can be extreme as any deeper than 22metres produces a temperature easily below 10 degrees. Keeping in the warmer waters you follow the gradient of the lake floor up until the silhouettes of two huge barges appear. They are made almost entirely of wood save for the century old iron nails that hold them all together. It is unbelievable how intact all the wooden beams and sections are for a wreck. The freshwater has done a fantastic job of preserving these great historical pieces. Swimming under and through into the hold the barge feels like an old galleon, a pretty unique experience compared to the metal wrecks most divers are used too. As you leave the wrecks waving goodbye to the abundant crayfish that call it home, you get a sense that you have just experienced something highly unique.
Lake Tahoe has a large array of other dive sites open to most divers and some more unique ones open to the more technically inclined. Rubicon wall is a sheer underwater drop down a few 100 metres which on a good day can offer a beautiful view. Marinas and bays near the town of South Lake Tahoe whilst know to have the least visibility in comparison to the rest of the lake, will often yield a few discoveries to the treasure hunting diver, including watches Iphones and sunglasses.
If you are in the area and want to try some freshwater altitude diving Lake Tahoe is a unique memorable experience and remember that freshwater means no gear wash after your dives.