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Lake Tahoe Has a New Underwater Trail That Lets You Explore Over 100 Years of History

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 10/5/2018 Talia Avakian
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A new underwater trail lets explorers discover Lake Tahoe’s marine past.

© Courtesy of Mylana Haydu of Indiana State University,Center for Underwater Science.

Starting Oct. 1, visitors to California’s Emerald Bay State Park will be able to explore an underwater world filled with historic features dating back to the early 20th century.

While divers could previously explore two large barges in the Historic Barge Dive Site located on the bay, the new Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail will allow them to explore three new additional sites and an array of ships that rest under the bay’s surface.

These include a wooden fishing boat dating back to the early 20th century at a depth of 35 feet and an early 20th-century hard chine skiff located at a depth of 60 feet.

© Provided by TIME Inc.

The new trail also includes the earliest and largest vessel that was part of the fleet of recreational ships used at the Emerald Bay Resort, a simple family resort in the park that was a popular vacation destination before being removed in the 1950s to make way for campgrounds.

The 27-foot-long vessel, known as Florence M, was built in 1915 and used for excursions around the lake. Traces of its paint are still visible on its hull.

Visitors will also find several historic small vessels that were likely sunk at their moorings some 30 to 60 feet deep. These vessels include a metal kayak, a day sailor, wooden fishing boats, rowboats, and motorboats.

The creation of the new attraction marks the first time California State Parks have opened an underwater maritime heritage cultural trail to the public, inviting history buffs to dive through recreational watercraft and barges used in the park’s past. The collection is also the nation's largest and most diverse group of sunken small craft known to exist in their original location, according to park representatives.

Part of what makes exploring the underwater terrain so memorable is how well preserved these vessels are, in some cases after more than 100 years.

This is due to the water's cold temperature, which can average from 43 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the deepest parts of the bay and from the mid-60s to below freezing during the winter and early spring in the top 12 feet, park representatives told Travel + Leisure.

Divers and snorkelers will find underwater interpretive panels placed at the dive sites to give context about each location, and waterproof interpretive cards can also be found at the park’s visitor centers, local dive shops, on the park’s website, or on the Sierra State Parks Foundation’s website.

Park representatives recommend fall as the best time for diving thanks to warm temperatures and calmer waters in comparison to the summer, when recreational boats are in the area.

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