It’s not just people who are fond of Lake Tahoe. Black bears, bobcats, coyotes, deer and dozens of bird species all call the Lake Tahoe Basin home. And with a little preparation, and some dumb luck, people may catch a glimpse of Lake Tahoe’s wilder side.
Shay Zanetti, a fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, offers several tips for those looking to experience some of the lake’s abundant nature.
Zanetti recommended people look for wildlife at dawn or dusk when many species are most active. Binoculars are a must and a spotting scope is a big help, Zanetti said. People should keep their distance from wildlife and never feed them, for the safety of both themselves and the animal, he said.
Meadows and water-rich riparian areas are good spots to look for wildlife. Here are a few of the areas Zanetti recommends people keep an eye out:
Osprey, an impressive fish-slaying bird of prey, are common visitors to this lake situated near Lake Tahoe’s East Shore, Zanetti said. Inactive bald eagle nests can be seen in the area, and if you’re lucky, the bird themselves also make the occasional appearance around this lake, he said. For the highly motivated, Marlette Lake provides a more secluded experience and an even more stunning alpine lake. The walk to Marlette from Spooner is about 5 miles, one-way, uphill, so come prepared. Spooner Lake is located off Highway 28, just north of its intersection with U.S. Highway 50.
This South Shore tributary offers a unique wildlife viewing opportunities on a couple of fronts.
The annual fall Kokanee salmon run draws hundreds of glimmering red fish up the creek to spawn, and even more visitors come by hoping to get a look at the salmon, as well as the occasional bear that makes its way to the waters to feed.
Underwater glimpses of the natural world can also be found at the U.S. Forest Service-run Taylor Creek Visitor Center, which offers views of salmon and other wildlife via its Stream Profile Chamber.
The visitor center is located on the north side of Highway 89 about a mile west of historic Camp Richardson. The annual Kokanee Salmon Festival traditionally takes place the first weekend of October. More information on the visitor center is available by calling (530) 543-2674.
Although no longer an actual lake, this spot near Incline Village, on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, is a great location for checking out songbirds and shorebirds, Zanetti said.
Deer, coyote and bobcats are also visitors to this area, a nearly 800-acre parcel that was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service in 2008.
Incline Lake is located at the end of Incline Lake Road off of the Mount Rose Highway, across from Tahoe Meadows.
Burton Creek State Park
Located on the northeast side of Tahoe City, at the northwest corner of the lake, this California State Park includes 2,000 acres of largely undeveloped land.
Many of the species found in the basin can be spotted here. Goshawks and spotted owls are among the rarer visitors, Zanetti said. The best walking in the state park is found along Burton Creek and surrounding meadows, according to state parks.
Parking for this park can be found on Bunker Road.
This restored area offers a unique experience because it provides the opportunity to view wildlife without the need to hike, Zanetti said.
The area has nice big meadows and riparian areas that can be seen from the car. Shorebirds, raptors and the famed snipe (yes, they do exist) can each be found in the area, Zanetti said.
Blackwood Canyon is located off Blackwood Canyon Road along State Route 89, about three miles south of Tahoe City.