Lake Tahoe: A Brief History of the Lake
The beauty of Lake Tahoe will take your breath away. It is a fantastic place to visit, with resorts and developments that will please everyone.
The lake itself was formed by the rise and fall of faults about 5 to 10 million years ago. This created a deep valley that was blocked on the northeast side by lava from an eruption of Mount Pluto about 2 million years ago. According to geologists, Lake Tahoe’s initial elevation was 600 feet higher than its current level.
Today, the lake stretches along the Nevada-California border, 59 miles southwest of Reno and 100 miles northeast of Sacramento. Lake Tahoe covers an area of approximately 192 square miles and contains about 39 trillion gallons of water with a circumference of 72 miles.
It is the largest alpine lake, measuring 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. It is the third deepest lake in North America and the tenth deepest in the world with an average depth of 989 feet and 1,645 feet at its lowest point.
Lake Tahoe is one of the few major bodies of water in North America that does not eventually empty into the ocean. The lake is fed by 63 streams, but only the Truckee River flows. The surface of the lake is 6,227 feet above sea level. The surface of the lake can drop below the outlet to the Truckee during times of drought, making the lake fully self-contained at this time.
The upper 12 feet of the lake can heat up to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but in the winter and at lower depths the lake remains at 39 degrees F. of water from the bottom to the surface, it has never been known that the lake as a whole has been frozen.
This spectacular body of water has had many names over the years. It was first “discovered” by explorer John C. Fremont, accompanied by famed guide Kit Carson, on February 14, 1844. Fremont named it Lake Bonpland in honor of a French botanist who had joined him on previous expeditions. . However, cartographer Charles Preuss recorded it as Mountain Lake. Despite all this, it was commonly called Fremont Lake until 1852 when California Governor John Bigler led a party to the area to rescue some snow-trapped travelers. It was later renamed Bigler Lake.
The lake had other names such as Truckee Lake and Maheon Lake until the outbreak of the Civil War when politically correct members of the Union tried to strike out Bigler’s name from the lake due to his alleged Confederate sympathies. It was then that the name “Tahoe” was proposed, supposedly because it meant “high water”. Although there appears to be little historical support for this meaning of the word “Tahoe,” the name stuck. Some suggest that the word is actually a corruption of the Spanish word “tajo”, pronounced “ta-ho” and that it means “cut”.
Today, the Tahoe Basin offers an absolutely incredible range of outdoor activities to choose from. Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding, sledding, dog sled rides, snowmobiling, horseback riding, water skiing, lake swimming, hiking, camping, golf and boating, just to name a few.