Lake Tahoe

World Facts Index > United States > Lake Tahoe

Take a trip to Tahoe and get a preview of heaven! The pine-shrouded alpine lake truly earns the title of 'Jewel of the Sierras'. Crystal water shines brightly winter and summer inviting visitors to relax and enjoy the beauty. Come join us on a tour around the lake following the 72-miles of shoreline. We shall start at the north end and travel on the west and California side of the lake. Then, into Nevada and the eastern side.


Approaching on Highway 267 off Interstate 80, you will catch your first view of the magnificent lake at Brockway Summit then proceed to Kings Beach on the north shore. From here, one can travel completely around the lake in either direction. For our tour we shall take Highway 28 west on the California side and travel to the junction of Highways 28 and 89. You will pass beautiful Carnelian Bay and perhaps stop at Gar Woods Grill and Pier, a great dining spot and home of gorgeous wooden boats of the past. Going north on 89 will take you to Granlibakken Resort and Conference Center, the premier spot to combine business with great alpine and cross-country skiing and a multitude of summer activities. Alpine Meadows is another popular ski area in this neck of the woods. Continue north to the marvelous recreational areas of the beautiful Squaw Valley Resort. Host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the place remains the most popular area for both summer and winter sports. South on 89 takes us by many small communities and campground areas. One lovely little town to visit is Tahoe City with many recreational and dining choices. You can play a few rounds at Tahoe City Golf Course, shop at Boatworks Mall or float down the Truckee River at Fanny Bridge Rafting. Still going in a southerly direction from here you will pass Homewood Mountain Resort, another popolar ski area, and Sugar Pine Point State Recreation Area. You might stop here to see the historic Ehrman Mansion. Still on Highway 89, we pass D. L. Bliss State Park and continue until we reach exquisite Emerald Bay State Park at the south end of the lake. In the opinion of many, this is one of the most beautiful areas of Lake Tahoe. Continuing along the shoreline, you will join Highway 50 and go to the Nevada side of Tahoe. Before entering Nevada, you'll pass Hornblowers Cruises where one can tour the lake on the Tahoe Queen. Heavenly Ski Resort is also in this area on the California side of the lake. You will take Highway 50 to continue your trip along the shore into Nevada.


When one crosses into Nevada, the beauty remains constant. Pines rim the highway and the water is the same deep blue. Gaming is allowed and rather noticeable once you enter the state. The large hotels are mainly concentrated at the stateline areas on the north and south ends of the lake. At this point, you'll find Harrahs, Caesars, and Harveys resorts. Next, Zephyr Cove Resort boasts many amenities including water sports, lodging, eateries and the M.S. Dixie II Paddlewheeler. Enjoy cruising the lake and seeing all points of interest from this vessel, including Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm Castle. Approximately half way up the east shore at Spooner Junction, Highway 50 departs the area and proceeds to Carson City, our state capitol. At Spooner, take Highway 28 along the shoreline to the casino area at Incline Village. On the way you will pass Secret Harbor, a clothing-optional beach for sun-lovers. Next stop is Sand Harbor, the beautiful home of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. Then we come to the Ponderosa Ranch, a great place for the entire family to spend the day and see where the television series, Bonanza, was filmed. At this point, we are almost where we started our trip around Tahoe. One will find some major casinos located at Crystal Bay and Incline Village. The Cal-Neva is a nostalgic favorite along the lake. Frank Sinatra and his 'Rat Pack' hung out here, as well as Marylin Monroe and John F. Kennedy. The Sinatra and Monroe chalets are still on the shore. The Hyatt Regency is exquisite and has all the amenities of a small city. Another popular favorite is the Tahoe Biltmore, the friendliest place at the lake. Diamond Peak Ski Resort is near Incline Village for great snow activities. From the casino area, one can take the Mt. Rose Highway for a scenic trip to Reno. Staying on Highway 28 will take you to Stateline and then join Highway 267 leading back to Interstate 80.

History of Lake Tahoe

Shifting, grinding, sliding. Imperceptible, perpetual movement. Volcanic explosions, glacier formations and ultimately their disappearance, massive amounts of snow. This makes the basic recipe. Let it rise, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are created. Let it fall, the Tahoe Basin is formed. Time consuming, yes! Maybe 25-million years, give or take a few years, to form the bowl. Another 10,000 to form inlets to fill the bowl with melting glacial ice. The resulting masterpiece is known as 'the Jewel of the Sierras.'


The elevation of Lake Tahoe is 6,229 feet, making it the highest lake of its size in the United States. The water depth measures 1,645 feet at a portion of the lake in the Crystal Bay area. Thus, it is the tenth deepest lake in the world and third deepest in North America. Amazing clarity to depths of 75-feet. The lake covers a surface area of 191 square miles with 71-miles of exquisite shoreline. The Nevada/California border traverses lengthwise with a greater portion being on the California side. The average snowfall in some areas is 300-600 inches. Melting snow finds its way to the lake via 63 streams entering the basin. Oddly, there is only one outlet, the Truckee River. Because of the huge volume and constant movement of the water, Lake Tahoe never freezes despite the drastic winter temperatures.


Summer vacationers began arriving more than 10,000 years ago when the Washoe tribe camped along the cool lake shores. One of their favorite places is known today as Camp Richardson. The men of the tribe were skillful hunters and took advantage of the abundant wildlife. The Washoe women were noted for their intricate and artistic basket weaving. This idyllic lifestyle spanned generations of the peaceful tribe, however, it would not last.

Perhaps the first European American to see Lake Tahoe was John C. Fremont whose exploration party was led by Kit Carson in 1844. The Carson Pass or Mormon-Emigrant Trail became the main east to west route from Utah to California. In 1859, with the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, the face of the lake would change forever. With mines, towns and the railroad invading the territory, wood was needed to supply building materials. The east shore, from what is now Incline Village to Glenbrook, became a vast logging empire and the ravages of clear-cutting would remain evident for years to come.

A multitude of wealthy people were created during the California and Comstock mining days, and many were attracted to the pristine lake. Thus, the start of tourism and the resulting resorts soon to dot the lush landscape. The Tahoe Basin managed to remain in relative obscurity until the 1950s when Bill Harrah and Harvey Gross built the first casinos on the south shore. With their gaming expertise in Reno, they knew how to attract business for their establishments and became mainstays to this day. Harveys and Harrahs still remain as popular as ever. In 1960, the Winter Olympic Games were hosted at Squaw Valley on the west shore. With the resulting publicity, the area was soon recognized as a world-class winter playground, as well as the premier summer vacation venue. The Olympic Rings still remain at Squaw Valley Resort and the place is renowned for year-round sporting activities for all ages to enjoy.

The shoreline now bustles with casinos on the Nevada side of the lake. Perhaps, one of the most notable being the Cal-Neva Lodge, famous for hosting the rich and famous. Frank Sinatra, once part-owner, and Marylin Monroe were familiar faces here. John F. Kennedy also enjoyed cavorting at this star-studded establishment. Members of the 'mob' were reported to have ties to the casino and were often visitors.


While it took natural forces millions of years to create this exquisite masterpiece, man has managed to partially destroy the beauty in little more than a century. Through the years, casinos and resorts and the resulting visitors have upset the balance of nature. We are now in an age were we realize our mistakes and trying to remedy them. The rebuilding and new construction on all sides of the lake is based on blending harmoniously with the alpine surroundings. Comprehensive studies are being done to find ways to restore the area and keep it as nature intended. In October of 2000, the United States Congress and the House of Representatives authorized $300 million to restore the lake. The work will include restoration of clarity that has waned throughout the years, wetland restoration, erosion control and improving the health of the forest.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 38 41 44 51 60 68 78 78 71 61 47 40
Avg. Low 15 17 21 25 31 37 41 40 35 28 22 16
Mean 28 30 34 38 46 54 60 58 54 45 35 28


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