Lake Tahoe: A Sweetheart of a Lake

This 2 million year old lake was discovered February 14, 1844.

Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada of the United States straddling the state line between California and Nevada. Crater Lake, in Oregon, is the only United States lake that is deeper (by about 300 feet).

Lake Tahoe sits just west of Nevada’s capital, Carson City. It is the largest alpine lake, lakes at high altitudes, usually starting around 10,000 feet in elevation above sea level or above the tree line. At 122,160,280 acre-foots it trails only the five Great Lakes as the largest by volume in the United States.

An acre-foot equals approximately an eight-lane swimming pool, 82 ft long, 52 ft wide, and 9.8 ft deep. Formed about 2 million years ago as part of the Lake Tahoe Basin and its modern extent was shaped during the ice ages.

It is known for its clarity and panorama of the surrounding mountains, more than 75% of the lake’s watershed is surrounded by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the United States Forest Service.

Lake Tahoe’s name derives from the Washo word “dá’aw,” meaning “The Lake.” Washo is an endangered Native American language spoken by the Washo on the California–Nevada border in the drainages of the Truckee and Carson Rivers, especially around Lake Tahoe.

Lt. John C. Frémont was the first European-American to see Lake Tahoe, during his second exploratory expedition on February 14, 1844. He named it “Lake Bonpland” after Aimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland (a French botanist who had accompanied Prussian explorer Alexander von Humboldt in his exploration of Mexico, Colombia, and the Amazon River). From 1844 to 1853 the lake name was changed to “Mountain Lake”, “Fremont’s Lake”, “Fallen Leaf Lake”, and “Lake Bigler”.

William Henry Knight, mapmaker for the federal U.S. Department of the Interior, and colleague Dr. Henry DeGroot of the Sacramento Union joined the political name argument in 1862. Degroot suggested Tahoe and that was accepted. Mark Twain wanted them to keep the governor’s name of Bigler as the lake’s name and wrote about it in papers, magazines, and even his books. In 1945 the California State Legislature officially made the name Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe is the 16th deepest lake in the world with a maximum depth of 1,645 feet. It is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide with a 72-mile shoreline. Note to Flat Earthers: The lake is so large that its surface is noticeably convex due to the curvature of the earth.

At lake level, the opposing shorelines are below the horizon at its widest parts; by nearly 100 feet at its maximum width, and by some 320 feet along its length. The Lake Tahoe Basin was formed by vertical motion (normal) faulting. Uplifted blocks created the Carson Range on the east and the main Sierra Nevada crest on the west. Down-dropping and block tilting (half-grabens) created the Lake Tahoe Basin in between.

  • jeffrey pine
  • lodgepole pine
  • white fir
  • red fir
  • sugar pine
  • California incense-cedar
  • ponderosa pine
  • western white pine
  • mountain alder
  • Lake Tahoe yellowcress (rare)
  • Chara
  • Gomphoneis
  • coontail
  • curlyleaf pondweed
  • Eurasian watermilfoil
  • Zygnema and Cladophora algae
  • mink
  • bears
  • bald eagles
  • beaver
  • coyotes
  • squirrels
  • deer
  • retailed hawks
  • mountain quail
  • ospreys
  • racer snakes
  • woodpeckers
  • Canadian geese
  • ducks
  • chickadees
  • stellar jays
  • ravens
  • white pelicans
  • nutcrakers
  • finches
  • robins
  • Lahontan cutthroat trout
  • mountain whitefish
  • Lahontan speckled dace
  • Lahontan redside
  • Lahontan Lake tui chub
  • Tahoe sucker
  • Lahontan mountain sucker
  • Paiute sculpin
  • Asian clam
  • mysid shrimp
  • lake trout
  • rainbow trout
  • sockeye salmon
  • brown trout
  • brook trout
  • common carp
  • golden shiner
  • western mosquitofish
  • bluegill
  • black and white crappie
  • largemouth bass
  • smallmouth bass
  • brown bullhead
  • vermilion

The long-running NBC western “Bonanza” filmed its opening sequence on the scenic estate, as the show’s main characters rode horseback across the grassy landscape with sweeping shots of the Sierra Nevada in the background.

The Ponderosa ranch house is along the east shore in Zephyr Cove. “Bonanza” ran for 14 seasons and 431 episodes from 1959 to 1973, making it NBC’s longest-running western show.

The recreated Ponderosa became the centerpiece of a western-themed tourist attraction, a bonanza of a different type in scenic Lake Tahoe.

The amusement park operated in Incline Village, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe, from 1968 until 2004. Portions of the last five seasons of the TV series and three television films were also filmed at that location. There were rides, a museum, food like the “Hoss burger”,

a haunted house, panning for gold, robbery enactments, and souvenirs. On September 27, 2004, the Ponderosa Ranch’s gates had closed for good, after the land was sold to Incline Village developer David Duffield.


Lake Tahoe seems to have its own Loch Ness monster. It is called “Tessie” with stories first told by the Washoe and Paiute tribes in the mid-1800s, saying the creature resided in an underwater tunnel beneath Cave Rock. In the 1950s two policemen spotted a large black hump emerge and keep pace with their boat. There have been many sightings, no good photos.

It is believed the nearby Las Vegas Mobs used the lake for their body dumps. There have been reports of hundreds of bodies wearing clothes from the early to mid-1900s weighted down and dumped in deep water. Due to the near-freezing temperatures at the bottom of the lake, the bodies would be highly preserved.

Chinese railroad workers were brought into Truckee to build the railroads and instead of paying them and giving promised citizenship like they were supposed to receive at the end of the job, many of them were tied together, brought out to the middle of the lake, and dumped with weights attached to their bodies. This means that not only are there hundreds of bodies tied together but they are all preserved because of the cold temperatures.

Independent filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau received some deep-sea diving equipment and found the location where all these bodies supposedly were. Cousteau was hoping to make a documentary about it. When Cousteau returned, he said he would not film it because the world was not ready to see what the U.S. government did to these poor people.


Active Norcal
Los Angeles Times
The Swarm

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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