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New Underwater Trail Of Historic Sunken Boats Opens At Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay

Photo by Mylana Haydu, Indiana State University, Center for Underwater Science

Divers photodocumenting one of the wooden barges on the Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail.

Photo by Mylana Haydu, Indiana State University, Center for Underwater Science

For those of you who’ve managed to hike every California State Park trail at Lake Tahoe, there's a new adventure — only this one you'll need a dive mask to explore.

On Monday, the state opened the Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail — an underwater showcase of Lake Tahoe’s historic sunken watercraft and barges.

To form the trail, three new sites are being added to the Historic Barge Dive Site at Emerald Bay, which the state opened in 1998.

"The two barges, we think they may have been used to bring in materials for the building of Vikingsholm, the iconic residence at the mouth of the bay that was built in 1929," said archeologist Denise Jaffke, who heads the maritime heritage program for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

She says the barges rest at about 10 feet. The other dive sites are up to 60 feet deep and include a 27-foot passenger launch vessel built in 1915, at the heyday of Emerald Bay Resort. The lake's cold water helps preserve the vessels.

This is the first underwater trail for the state — though Jaffke says hopefully not the last.

A map of the Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail.California State Parks


"We do know of other shipwreck sites and submerged resources all along the coast and some of the other reservoirs which we could highlight kind of like Florida does,” she said. “A discontinuous statewide maritime heritage trail. That would not be up to me, but I would love to see that."

The Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail sites are not connected. California State Parks will provide GPS coordinates, and you need a boat to reach each of them.

Each site has underwater interpretive panels. There are also waterproof cards created for divers available at the park and at Tahoe Dive shops — one of which Jaffke says has suggested starting a dive boat tour.

You can learn more about the trail on the California State Parks website.

Drew Sandsor

Senior Producer, News

As Senior Producer of News, Drew works with reporters and anchors on the daily production and presentation of news stories on Capital Public Radio. He also works closely with the station's digital team on news coverage across various online platforms  Read Full Bio 

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