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Sand Harbor: Water Bluer Than Sinatra’s Eyes

Water whispered against the sand. I raised my head to absorb the snow-tipped Sierra Nevada Mountains encircling the lake. The contrast was incongruous. A quick trespass into the water, made the juxtaposition less bizarre. The temperature proved a bracing reminder that I was more than six thousand feet above sea level and that this water – tolerable up to knee depth – probably once capped those same mountains.

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor was first turned into a summer resort in the late nineteenth century. The reason for that is as clear as the Lake Tahoe water: the landscape is unbeatable. Now a state park, with fifty-five acres of beaches, Sand Harbor receives one million visitors each year. I think they must all descend in August. Sure, there were a few couples basking on ginormous rocks and skater boys doing their best to lose chunks of their knees in the parking lot, but we encountered more animals than people.

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor has a short nature trail and another trail to Memorial Point. It’s worth slipping off the boardwalk and exploring the rocky alcoves along the shore. You never know what you might find!

Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the country and, like all significant, self-respecting bodies of water, it has its own monster. Allegedly. Tahoe Tessie is thought to be reptilian and either black or turquoise. Of course, we saw no signs of Tessie, but we did run across this guy. Lizard? Check. Black? Check. Turquoise markings? Check. Size? Er… tiny. Possibly a distant relative of Tahoe Tessie’s.

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

We kept a close watch on the water as we crunched across sand made from oversized granules, which could double as a foot scrub. But nothing untoward emerged from the depths. The only unexpected activity occurred on shore.

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

A family with young kids had left a picnic hamper open, while the kids played in the water. A precocious squirrel hopped into the hamper and began rummaging through it. He made off with some fruit then returned – presumably for dessert. The father finally came close enough for us to yell a warning and he shooed the klepto critter away.

At this point, I should probably mention the sign we noticed at the Visitor’s Center. It warned of the risk of plague infection from the area’s rodent population (which includes squirrels) and the fleas that travel with them. A little research suggests that transmission to humans is rare, but we didn’t know that at the time. The man jogged off before we could alert him to the issue.

Lane eyed the hamper and wrinkled her nose.
“Fancy a plague sandwich for lunch?” she asked.

Shores of Lake Tahoe from Juliet on Vimeo.

A scenic video of the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

  • The entrance to Sand Harbor is not always manned. We used the self-pay fee station. It’s advisable to have the exact amount ($12 when we visited) on hand.
  • You are not allowed to arrive on foot, only by personal vehicle or via the transit system from Incline Village (it runs seasonally).
  • No dogs.
  • Restrooms are available.
  • There is a beach shack restaurant called the Char-pit Its menu features burgers (including veggie ones), ribs, hot dogs, sandwiches, milkshakes and beer.
  • This is a great spot for swimming or scuba diving. There is also a boat launch on the other side of the park.
  • In July and August, the Tahoe Shakespeare Festival takes place at Sand Harbor.

Lane & Juliet

The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.



Very pretty. Interesting note about the rodents. Are they actually talking about the black plague? I know it’s carried by fleas, but seems crazy to think about in this day and age.
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The Duo

The posted signs were not clear. It just stated “the plague”. I would assume Bubonic.

The Duo

Thank you! We’re starting to play with video a bit more, and hope to include more snippets in the future.

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