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Does Lake Tahoe Freeze? (Hint: Maybe a Little)

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

The short answer to the question "does Lake Tahoe freeze?" is:

A few, isolated parts of Lake Tahoe occasionally freeze over.

Where does the water freeze?

1. Incline Village resident Terry Savage, former CIO of the State of Nevada, wrote on Quora: "There is freezing around some of the edges during very cold snaps."

2. Emerald Bay, which is on the south end of the lake, partially freezes over during many winters. However, it's just a thin layer of ice (you will never see anyone ice skating on Lake Tahoe).

As you can see in this Lake Tahoe bathymetry, Emerald Bay is a relatively small and shallow inlet.

Lake Tahoe Bathymetry

As an aside, Eagle Lake is a short hike up from Emerald Bay. Because this is a small, shallow lake, it can freeze over to the point that it can be walked on and skated on.

Eagle Lake Ice Skater
Skating on Eagle Lake

This means that it is possible for alpine lakes in the Tahoe basin to freeze over. It's just that Lake Tahoe itself generally does not freeze due to a number of factors, including its depth to surface area ratio.

3. Another Quora post proclaims that Carnelian Bay froze over to a shallow depth in the winter of 1978.

So yes, Lake Tahoe does freeze—but only a little.

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