After our recent visit to the California State Railroad Museum, turning to another mode of 18th century transportation seemed logical. Staying in South Shore Lake Tahoe, we were only a dock away from the paddle boat, Tahoe Queen. I’m not quite sure how a paddle boat got up to Lake Tahoe, but get our your dusty edition of Mark Twain’s story, Roughing It, and enjoy the ride through time. I will not bore you with the 90 minute time-share sales pitch that we endured to get four free passes… just get out your credit card… your time is worth more than $49 to pay for the tickets.
There are actually two paddle boats that leave from the South Shore area. The Tahoe Queen leaves from the California side at the end of Ski Run boulevard. The Dixie Queen II leaves from the Nevada casino district. We took the afternoon lake cruise, leaving at 1:30, for the two-and-a-half hour excursion to Emerald Bay. Having walked down to Emerald Bay the day before, we enjoyed seeing it from the water.
With our previously mentioned mobility needs, we took the first table on the lowest level to avoid the steep stairs to the second, inside level, and third open-deck level of the boat. With clear skies the open-deck level as also crowded, which obscured our view unless we pushed our way to the rails. We eventually found a more sheltered area on second level near the bow of the boat. We rotated three of us on the first level and two outside as the scenery passed by. Given that the shore side of the boat for the first half of the trip became the lake side of the boat on the return, we did not need to change tables to get both views.
All three levels have bar service and a limited lunch menu for a fee (the sunset cruise includes dinner and live band for dancing, with dinner pre-paid). The bartender was a bit gruff. When we ordered decaf coffee, he begrudgingly brewed us a pot. He warmed up a bit, when I asked for Kahlua in my second cup (and tipped him well for the effort, if not attitude on perking a pot for us). I figured that he probably has a second bartending gig in a casino until 3 a.m. anyway.
Though a strong breeze had come up on the lake that afternoon, the ride was smooth. The clear water of Lake Tahoe made for intense color changes as the boat passed from the shallow, sandy shores that quickly descend to 1000 feet of water (the deepest sections of the lake are about 1,600 feet). With the wind, one to three-foot waves broke up the reflections of the shoreline, mirroring the blues of the mid-day sky, reminding us of the Native American people’s name for the lake, Lake of the Sky.