Iconic Lake Tahoe Paddlewheeler Pulled From Beach – Update

Tahoe Queen in Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay
Tahoe Queen in Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay

Update: Four commercial salvage boats on Tuesday were able to rotate the Tahoe Queen and then tow the vessel into deeper water at around 5:30 p.m., the coast guard said. The distressed vessel was then able to transit back to the Ski Run Marina under it’s own power. The cause for grounding remains under investigation.

Original: Sightseeing tourists got a little more than they bargained for on Monday when Lake Tahoe’s only authentic Mississippi paddlewheeler ran aground during an afternoon cruise.

Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that they were notified Monday afternoon that the popular passenger vessel Tahoe Queen was hard aground on a sand bar just off Ski Run Marina, forcing the rescue of more than 300 passengers and crew.

Rescue boat crews from Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, Douglas County, El Dorado County and Vessel Assist transferred all passengers and non-essential crew from the Tahoe Queen to shore at Ski Run Marina in South Lake Tahoe, where the Tahoe Queen is homeported.

No injures were reported among the 296 passengers and handfuls of non-essential crew that had to be evacuated.

As of Tuesday morning, the Tahoe Queen was still hard aground in Lake Tahoe.

It is unclear what caused the vessel to run aground so close to home, but several seasons of a below average snowpack and the effects of California’s record-breaking drought have caused the Lake’s water level to fall to barely above the “natural rim”, exposing many underwater obstacles and leaving several piers high and dry. According to the USGS, Lake Tahoe’s surface elevation in Tahoe City was at 6,223.82 feet as of August 5th, less than a foot above the natural rim elevation of 6,223 feet and well below the average surface elevation of 6,225 feet.

Five Interesting Facts About Lake Tahoe That You May or May Not Learn on The Tahoe Queen:

  1. With a maximum depth of 1,645 feet and average depth of 1,000 feet, Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and the tenth deepest in the world.
  2. Lake Tahoe’s water is so clear that you can see a 30cm white disk lowered to depth of about 70 feet. This depth is known as the “Secchi depth” and while still extremely clear, the clarity of Lake Tahoe has been slowly reduced since recordings began in the late 1960’s when the clarity was greater than 100 feet.
  3. There is enough water in Lake Tahoe to cover the entire state of California in over a foot of water. The volume of water is estimated to be about 39 trillion gallons.
  4. The water in Lake Tahoe never, ever reaches the ocean. Instead, Lake Tahoe empties into Pyramid Lake in Nevada via the Truckee River, the Lake’s only outlet.
  5. Lake Tahoe has its equivalent of the “Loch Ness Monster”. Her name is “Tahoe Tessie” and she IS real.