Sand Harbor is located at Sand Harbor State Park, 5 miles south of Incline Village, Nevada, on Highway 28. Sand Harbor has an elevation of 6,229 feet and is the most popular dive site in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
I dive here A LOT because we use Sand Harbor to conduct many of our classes. It’s also easy to get to from Reno.
During the Summer, you are only allowed to dive the small cove (Diver’s Cove) between the boat ramp area and the main beach, which is fine because diving with boats isn’t a great idea anyway, and the beach is pretty much all sand.
To the left of the cove (South side), the water gets to about 30 feet toward the end of the rocky point. This area is sometimes referred to as The Nursery because there are thousands of schooling fingerling trout swarming the boulders. If you swim quickly, or make a lot of noise, you won’t see them at all because they duck under the rocks to hide. If you are quiet, they’ll surround you, even swimming right up to your mask until you exhale. Look toward deep water, past the schooling fish, for the occasional large lake trout. They often hang just out of view, but those little fish are high on their list of menu items, so they’re there.
On the North side of the cove, the rocks are generally larger, forming the occasional swim-through. The first of these is in about 14 feet. It’s in the general area of the point where swimmers line up to jump off the rocks. As you move toward deeper water, you’ll find more of these, but don’t be tempted to swim through any but the largest ones.
The coolest thing about that side of the cove is the giant boulders forming sheer walls and canyons. These provide cover for schooling fish, but also some decent sized trout. Again, diving “quietly” will increase your chances of an encounter.
All in all, Sand Harbor is a nice dive site. In a way, Sand Harbor is to Reno what the Breakwater is to Monterey. We conduct a lot of classes there, so there is a tendency to view it as a training site. In reality, Sand Harbor is a very diverse dive site. I’ve made easily 1,000 dives there over the years and always look forward to the next one.