Washoe Lake Overview
If you are up at Tahoe in the summer and hankering for wind, check out Washoe. Washoe Lake can be a very windy place but because it is near the Sierra Nevada Mts. and at 5000 ft. elevation it is also usually quite gusty. Spring winds are strong with fronts that can bring winds over 40 mph. but also with water temps. at 40 to 50 F. In March and April only the hard core are on the water. By Late April and May the air may warm to the 60’s and 70's with good frontal winds quite common.
By Summer the Lake warms up and Afternoon Thermal winds blow about 3 to 5 days a week. In Sept. the winds die off and the water cools from its warm Aug. highs in the 70's. Common Windsurfing sail sizes are in the 4.0 to 6.0 range in the spring and then 5.0 to 7.0 and up in the summer. With Kites in the 7.0 to 12 range in the spring and 9.0 to 14.0 in the Summer. Dry suits are used by a few in the early spring and then by Aug. a swim suit is all you need on the warmest days with the air temp in the 90's at times.
The Water in Washoe Lake is quite brown in color due to the muddy bottom in the center of the lake. The lake is only 15 feet deep in the middle so the mud gets churned up with the wind chop. Although the water is not clear or pleasing to look at, the views of the mountains to the west more than make up for it.
There are actually two Washoes, the largest, Washoe Lake is about six miles long and three miles wide. The other lake, Little Washoe Lake is much smaller and only about 1/2 mile long and 1/4 mile wide. Windsurfers use both lakes with the smaller lake being used more by those learning due to the lack of wind chop and lighter wind conditions. Both Lakes are visible from highway US 395 as you drive between Reno and Carson City Nevada.. Reno is 20 mi. north and Carson City is 7 mi. south. There are 4 locations for windsurfers and Kiters to access the two lakes.
1. Nevada State Parks North Boat Ramp This area gets the most use by windsurfers and kiters. It is on the east side of the lake and is accessed by taking East Lake Blvd. to Lake Shore Dr. then to the park entrance, a 1/4 mi. dirt road to the park. Daily fee is $7, annual is $65. The wind is onshore 95% of the time and is very safe with a large sandy beach to catch those who can't get back to the parking area if they have a problem. The launch is mostly sandy with some rocks as you get near the boat ramp. Most of the people here on windy days are windsurfers and kiters but the lake is used by some jet skis and ski boats with most leaving when it's windy. Parking is good and close to the water but rarely crowded. There are rest rooms with running water with covered picnic areas and BBQ grills. This site is without large trees and has little protection from the wind and sun with little to offer for those not windsurfing on windy days. On the average this location has the best and most consistent wind on the lake.
2. Nevada State Parks South Lake Boat Ramp and Camp Grounds. With the best facilities and the only camping on the Lake this site is nice for those who want to camp and sail or do other recreational activities. This is also a fee area operated by the Nevada State Parks. It has grassy areas for rigging, trees for shade and protection from the wind. it has a long sandy beach to sail from with onshore winds most of the time. The wind tends to be lighter than the North Boat Ramp but is also very safe in the normal onshore Southwest and Westerly wind conditions.
3. Little Washoe Lake At the Northern end of Washoe Valley, this lake is fun to sail for those learning or wanting to sail in flat water conditions. Also a part of the Nevada State Parks system, a daily $7 fee is required. The lake is small with no facilities other than rest rooms South wind days provide the best conditions here but there may be weeds in the water late in the summer.
4. Bellview: off shore conditions prevail here and are not recommended for those who can not get upwind in all conditions. There are no facilities here or user fees. The wind is very gusty and the lake bottom is mostly mud. The water is very shallow with the chance of running aground in spots. Speed sailing is the thing to do here, the water is very flat. May not be sailable in late summer and drought years.
Local Expert? Edit this Page!