LAKE TAHOE AREA FACTS AND HISTORY
One of the world’s greatest lakes, got it’s name from the Washoes named the area “Da-ow-a-ga,” or “edge of the Lake.” As an accident however, some of the first explorers mispronounced the name in English as Tahoe The area around Lake Tahoe was originally inhabited by the Washoe tribe of Native Americans. The Lake Tahoe Basin was a summer gathering place for three bands of the peaceful Washoe Indians. Lake Tahoe and the Majestic Mount Tallac, held a spiritual meaning for the tribe and many sacred ceremonies were held along the southern shores The English name for Lake Tahoe derives from the Washo daw, “lake”.
Explorers John Fremont and Kit Carson were the first pioneers to discovered Lake Tahoe in 1844. Lt. John C. Fremont was the first non-indigenous person to see Lake Tahoe. They first saw Lake Tahoe high above the Carson Pass. Fremont first named this magnificent body of water Lake Bonpland after a botanist, but referrd to it as Mountain Lake on his maps. The name was eventually changed to “Lake Bigler” in honor of Californias governor John Bigler. In 1853 William Eddy, the surveyor general of California, identified Tahoe as Lake Bigler. In 1862 the U.S. Department of the Interior first introduced the name Tahoe. Both names were used until well into the next century. The lake didn’t receive its official and final designation as Lake Tahoe until 1945.Public appreciation of the Tahoe basin grew, and during the 1912, 1913, and 1918 congressional sessions, congressmen tried unsuccessfully to designate the basin as a national park. During the first half of the 20th century, development around the lake consisted of a few vacation homes. The post-World War II population and building boom, followed by construction of gambling casinos in the Nevada part of the basin during the mid-1950s, and completion of the interstate highway links for the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley, resulted in a dramatic increase in development within the basin. From 1960 to 1980, the permanent residential population increased from about 10,000 to greater than 50,000, and the summer population grew from about 10,000 to about 90,000.
Lake Tahoe is the Sierra Nevada’s Rarest Gem, being North America’s largest alpine lake, the second deepest lake in the United States and the tenth deepest in the world, with a maximum depth measured at 1,645 ft (501 m), average depth of 1,000 ft (305 m). Lake Tahoe is the highest lake of its size in the United States. Lake Tahoe is 22 miles in length and 12 miles in width and covers a surface area of 191 square miles. Lake Tahoe is fed from 63 tributaries with the Truckee River as the only outlet. The Truckee now runs a path 105 miles long into Pyramid Lake just outside Reno Nevada. The consistently beautiful shoreline is 72 miles, with the California shoreline being 42 miles and the Nevada shoreline being 29 miles. The Sierra Nevada is a Spanish phrase meaning, snowy range”. The lake was formed about 2 million years ago and is a part of the Lake Tahoe Basin with the modern Lake being shaped during the Ice Ages. The lake is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides.
Upon discovery of gold in the South Fork of the American River in 1848, thousands of gold seekers going west passed near the basin on their way to the gold fields. European civilization first made its mark in the Lake Tahoe basin with the 1858 discovery of the Comstock Lode, a silver deposit just 15 miles (24 km) to the east in Virginia City, Nevada. From 1858 until about 1890, logging in the basin supplied large timbers to shore up the underground workings of the Comstock mines. The logging was so extensive that loggers cut down almost all of the native forest. In 1864, Tahoe City was founded as a resort community for Virginia City, the first recognition of the basins potential as a destination resort area.
The S.S. TAHOE was a steamship that operated on Lake Tahoe at the end of the 19th century and first half of the 20th. Scuttled in 1940, the wreck presently lies in 400 feet of water off Glenbrook, Nevada. The wreck was first visited in 2002 by a record-setting high-altitude dive, and as a result became the first maritime site in Nevada to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
By the end of the 19th century, Lake Tahoe had become known as a vacation resort, with a handful of hotels and communities scattered around its shores, serviced by a number of steamers crossing the lake. Lumber magnate Duane Leroy Bliss ordered the vessel from San Francisco’s Union Iron Works in 1894. It was shipped by rail in pieces to Carson City, then by wagon to Glenbrook, reassembled, and launched with much acclaim on June 24, 1896.
At 169 feet, Tahoe was the largest of the lake steamers; she was propelled by two wood-fired engines developing a total of 1200 hp, each driving a three-bladed propeller. Her 200 passengers enjoyed a well-appointed interior, with leather upholstery, carpeting, and marble fixtures in the lavatories. Modern technologies included electric lights and bells, hot and cold running water, and steam heating.
From 1901, Tahoe operated from a railroad pier in Tahoe City during the summers, leaving in the morning, making a daily circuit of the shoreline communities, and returning in late afternoon. In addition to the passengers, she carried freight and mail.
THE WISHBONE AUTOMOBILE ROUTE TO AND AROUND LAKE TAHOE
This is the name given to the 260-mile automobile route to and from Lake Tahoe, going in from Sacramento over the world-famed Emigrant Gap and Donner Lake road, around the western shore of Lake Tahoe, from Tahoe Tavern to Tallac, and thence back to Sacramento over the historic and picturesque Placerville road. While both of the two main arms of the “wishbone” carry the traveler over the Sierras, the roads are wonderfully different. On the Emigrant Gap arm the road seems to have been engineered somewhat after the Indian fashion, viz., to allow the wildest and most expansive outlooks, while the Placerville route is largely confined to the picturesque and beautiful canyon of the South Fork of the American River. Both have honored histories and both are fascinating from the scenic standpoint and the difference in the two routes merely accentuates the charm of the trip, when compared with the new portion of the road, the connecting link that binds them together and now makes possible the ride around the lake shore. Experience has demonstrated, however, that it is better to make the circuit as herein outlined.
A brief sketch of the history of the building of the Emigrant Gap portion of this road cannot fail to be of interest. It was practically followed by a host of the emigrants who sought California during the great gold excitement of 1848-9. It was also one of the earliest routes used between Sacramento and the mines of the High Sierras. In 1849 it was established from Sacramento to Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City and to-day there is practically little deviation from the original route. In 1850 the mines on the Forest Hill Divide were discovered and a branch road from Auburn was built to that section. At Illinoistown (now Colfax) the road branched, one arm crossing the North Fork of the American River to Iowa Hill and other camps on that divide, while the main road continued up the Sierras to Gold Run, Dutch Flat and other points higher up.
The completion of an automobile road all around the lake in 1926, followed by the loss of the mail contract in 1934, made Tahoe uneconomical to operate, and she lay unused for several years. In 1940, Bliss’ son William L. Bliss repurchased the vessel from the operating company; his intent was scuttle her in shallow water off Glenbrook as a memorial to a bygone era, visible to glass bottomed boats. Tahoe was scuttled on August 29, 1940, but the underwater slope was unexpectedly steep at the chosen location, and the ship slid down out of sight, ending up with the bow at 385 feet and the stern at 460 feet.
In 2002, Reno-based group New Millennium Dive Expeditions set a record for both Lake Tahoe and for high-altitude scuba diving in general when they reached the wreck of Tahoe. The information they gathered on the wreck was a crucial part of the documentation enabling Tahoe to be listed as a National Historic Place.
LAKE TAHOE’S GEOLOGY
Some of the highest peaks of the Lake Tahoe Basin that formed during process of Lake Tahoe creation are Freel Peak at 10,891 feet Monument Peak at 10,067 feet Pyramid Peak at 9,983 feet (in the Desolation Wilderness), and Mount Tallac at 9,735 feet. Eruptions from the extinct volcano Mount Pluto formed a dam on the north side. Melting snow filled the southern and lowest part of the basin to form the ancestral Lake Tahoe. Rain and runoff added additional water.
Given the great depth of Lake Tahoe, and the locations of the normal faults within the deepest portions of the lake, modeling suggests that earthquakes on these faults can trigger tsunamis. Wave heights of these tsunamis are predicted to be on the order of 10 to 33ft (3 to 10m) in height, capable of traversing the lake in just a few minutes. While Lake Tahoe is a natural lake, it is also used for water storage by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID). The lake level is controlled by a dam at the lake’s only outlet, the Truckee River, at Tahoe City. A Mark Twain Quote upon his discovery of Lake Tahoe, ” At last the lake burst upon us… a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of sea, and walled in by snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher still… I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.”