The Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail in Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay is a unique and historically significant underwater trail, officially opened to the public in October 2018. This trail is notable for showcasing a collection of historic recreational watercraft and barges that now rest beneath the surface of Emerald Bay. It represents California’s first maritime heritage underwater trail.
This underwater trail allows scuba and snorkel divers to explore a series of historic features at several sites along the shoreline of Emerald Bay State Park. One of the main attractions is the Historic Barge Dive Site, established by California State Parks in 1998. This site features two massive barges, constructed from Ponderosa pine timbers, which rest at depths ranging from 10 to 40 feet. These barges, used historically by lumber companies, were employed both for hauling cordwood and as car ferries during the summer months.
In addition to the barges, the trail includes other intriguing remnants such as the Passenger Launch “Florence M,” a Wooden Fishing Boat, and a Hard Chine Skiff, all associated with the Emerald Bay Resort. This resort, once a family-focused recreational site, offered a range of activities, with these small boats playing a significant role in the experience. After the state acquired the land in the 1950s, the buildings of the resort were removed to make way for a campground, and the boats were scuttled (intentionally sunk) at their moorings.
The cold waters of Lake Tahoe have helped preserve these sunken vessels, some of which are over a century old. The collection includes a variety of boats, such as a metal kayak, day sailors, and motorboats, representing a diverse array of watercraft from the early 20th century. This collection is unique in being the largest and most diverse group of sunken small watercraft in their original location known to exist in the nation.
Underwater interpretative panels have been placed at the dive sites, and waterproof interpretive cards are available to divers, providing information about these historical sites. These resources were developed with the support of the Sierra State Parks Foundation.
The Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail not only offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Lake Tahoe’s culture of recreation but also serves as a reminder of the golden age of recreation in the area. It’s a unique opportunity for diving enthusiasts to explore an important piece of maritime history in an incredibly scenic setting