Kayak’s eye view of Lake Tahoe

Brian Footen paddles along the shoreline near Lake Forest recording images of the lake. | Tim Hauserman

Explore a street-view-style tour of Lake Tahoe’s shoreline from EarthViews Conservation Society created by kayaking the lake’s shoreline. This endeavor provides an immersive and detailed journey around Tahoe on the surface and beneath the water.

“The Lake Tahoe Shoreline Map allows people to experience Lake Tahoe like never before, bringing the entire shoreline to life with the click of a button. We know that the more people learn about this unique environment and experience the beauty of the lake, the more they are inspired and motivated to take care of this national treasure,” said Caroline Waldman, communications and program director for Tahoe Fund, which sponsored the project.

How was this spectacular detailed look at Lake Tahoe created? It started in June 2022 with Brian Footen, EarthViews co-founder and executive director, slowly paddling his way around Lake Tahoe in a 100-pound, stable, sit-on-top kayak. He carried with him more than 200 pounds of sophisticated cameras, batteries and personal gear. After the enormous winter we just trudged through, Footen returned this June to paddle the Lake’s shoreline once again. This time he was cataloging the amazing difference in the near-shore view with 5 feet more of water in the lake since September 2022 and 4 feet since his last trip around the lake.

“[The Lake Tahoe Shoreline Map] is a way for scientists to understand the near-shore condition of the lake better and will leave a legacy of data for future generations.”
–Brian Footen

I met Footen as he steadily paddled up to the beach in Lake Forest, near what is now an island and last year was a peninsula. He was halfway around his second circumnavigation of the lake. His kayak is equipped with a 5-foot-tall tripod holding a camera that takes an image every 30 seconds and an underwater camera that takes regular images of the bottom of the lake. The kayak is also equipped with a water-quality-monitoring device that tests the condition of the water as he paddles. The goal is to see if the water quality differs based on the location in the lake.

Footen paddles about 10 to 12 miles a day, which can be exhausting given the weight of his kayak. He stays close to shore and records what animals he sees along the route. I noticed as he paddled away from a busy Lake Forest beach that people were curious as to what he was up to. Footen uses these questions from the curious as a chance to educate the public on the purpose of his journey.

“I want to thank the Tahoe Fund who really show they care about conservation of the lake. It’s a way for scientists to understand the near-shore condition of the lake better and will leave a legacy of data for future generations,” he said.

Footen was excited to see the contrasts in the lake. There were many locations along his route this year where he safely paddled over several feet of water that were high and dry last year.

“We are looking forward to seeing the differences between a high-water year and a low-water year — and learn more about what that means for the lake’s clarity and its overall health,” said Waldman.

“The whole mission is to sound the alarm for waterways facing climate change by documenting what is going on and advocating for the waterways,” said Footen.

The site allows you to pick any spot along the lake shore and see the view both above and below water.

“Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Tahoe Fund is thrilled to support EarthViews Conservation Society as they gather another round of imagery and data for the shoreline map. In total, Tahoe Fund has granted $21,000 to EarthViews Conservation Society’s mapping project,” said Waldman.

“This comprehensive look at today’s conditions will serve as a significant historical marker,” said Footen. “Scientists will be able to look back 5, 10 or 50 years from now and understand how water quality and the physical shoreline have changed over time.” | earthviewsociety.org

Lake Tahoe Shoreline Map