California's first underwater shipwreck park, the Emerald Bay Historic Barges was officially opened to the public following the September 23, 1994 dedication ceremony.
Located in 10 to 30 feet of clear water in picturesque Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, the site consists of two large wooden barges constructed of massive Ponderosa pine timbers. Although their names remain unknown, they are typical of the cordwood barges constructed in the early 1900s for use in carrying general cargo on the lake. These vessels are well made, but lacked their own propulsion. They were towed by steamers that made a regular circuit between California and Nevada anchorages.
Following the establishment of Emerald Bay as one of California's premier underwater parks, a complete archaeological survey of the site was conducted by Dr. Sheli O. Smith, of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. She prepared detailed illustrations of the barges. The next phase of the park development concerned improved access and interpretation of the site. A permanent mooring buoy system, including a mooring block and buoy ball, was installed to allow for safe diver access to the wrecksite by boat. California's first underwater interpretive panel was also fabricated and installed. It details the historic significance of the barges and important conservation tips for divers at the underwater site.There are many items of archaeological interest on the historic barges of Emerald Bay, including towing bitts and hogging trusses, which are exceptionally well preserved in the cold, clear, waters of this sub-alpine lake. The remaining section of deck planking allows divers to carefully swim through the barge hull and view its massive timbers.
The Photographic Imaging Technique (PIT) was applied to the Emerald Bay Historic Barges site illustration. Using the existing illustrations, PIT allows for the development of a composite map with important elements illustrated by photographs in situ . This produces a graphic baseline to measure any deterioration or impact from visitors or natural elements underwater. Indiana University has pioneered the PIT system for use in state, national, and international underwater parks, as well as sites within the National Marine Sanctuaries
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Underwater Science Program
Last updated: 31 October 2001
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Copyright 2001, The Trustees of Indiana University