Beachgoers who for years have frolicked in the buff along certain shores of Lake Tahoe are facing increased scrutiny from authorities after officials said they recently witnessed lewd behavior.
Attention was prompted by an encounter sheriff’s deputies had with two groups of nude sunbathers on the lake’s eastern shore on June 29, said Bob Harmon, a spokesman for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies patrolling the Nevada stretch of shoreline in a boat said several naked men were standing on a rock at Secret Cove and made inappropriate and lewd gestures toward them, Harmon said.
“When they saw our boat, they began to taunt our deputies,” he said. “They behaved in a manner that was not legal and was improper based on Nevada laws.”
Shortly after, deputies spotted a man and woman sans clothing just down the cove at Creek Beach.
“They were pretty brazenly open about not being legally clothed, so the boat went up and [deputies] talked to them,” Harmon said.
Deputies issued warnings to the groups and reminded them about laws surrounding public nudity, but no one was arrested, Harmon said.
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Carson City Sheriff to report the issue because it was in that agency’s jurisdiction. Washoe County sheriff’s deputies were patrolling the stretch of shore as part of an agreement with other counties whose coverage areas include portions of Lake Tahoe.
While nude swimming and sunbathing have occurred for years at the lake, it’s still illegal, Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said, noting that enforcement has not been a high priority.
A day after the incident, authorities did a sweep of the beaches to tell people to put their clothes back on, Furlong said.
“I don’t know if it was some out-of-control recreationalist or what is happening,” Furlong said. “There’s no question it did take place and our reserves are going to be up in the area.”
Beachgoer Bryan Eidem countered that he didn’t see any lewd activity that day. He shot video of a deputy warning a group that its behavior could be considered a sex crime.
“I don’t know why they would threaten us and tell us we are going to be charged with sex crimes for sunbathing,” Eidem said.
Penalties for public nudity under local ordinances would not be classified as sex crimes. Under state law, the first offense would be a misdemeanor, Carson City Dist. Atty. Jason Woodbury said.
Harmon struck back against comments that the deputies were easily offended and being overly sensitive.
“Our deputies are a little tougher than that,” he said. “Their concern was because there were minors in the area that were exposed to it. We don’t want to ruin it for everybody, but some people may have done that on their own.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report