Lake Tahoe has been called a "700 year lake" because it is so large and deep it would take 700 years to fill it with water. Ringed by numerous mountain peaks, the Tahoe basin was formed between two and three million years ago by the same vast geological forces that created the Sierra Nevada and Carson mountain ranges.
As the mountains pushed upward, block faulting created the huge hole that would later become Lake Tahoe. But first, glaciers would form during the Ice Age to carve the basin, followed by volcanic eruptions that would send lava to seal the opening of the basin, resulting in the lake you see today.
With a maximum depth of 1,645 feet (approx 1/3 mile, or 1/2 Km), Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and the tenth deepest in the world. Tahoe is unique in that it is one of North America's few terminal lakes. While it is generally true that all rivers run to the sea, the Truckee River (which is Lake Tahoe's only outlet) empties into Pyramid Lake in Nevada, making it a terminal lake.
Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. It has 72 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 1919 square miles. With an average surface elevation of 6,225 feet above sea level it is the highest lake of its size in the United States.
Due to its elevation and the coldness of the water, Tahoe enjoys unrivaled clarity, 99.7% pure, the equivalent to distilled water. Objects can be seen up to 100 feet below its surface. An average of 1,400,000 tons of water (or one-tenth of an inch) evaporates off the lake every day - enough to supply the daily water requirements of 3,500,000 people. If Tahoe was emptied out into California, it would cover the entire state with nearly 14 inches of water.
Tahoe gets its name from the Washoe tribe - native Americans who spent their summers there for perhaps 10,000 years. The first white people to see Lake Tahoe were Lt. John C. Fremont and Kit Carson. Four years later, in 1848, gold was discovered in California, prompting the westward migration, which passed through the area. But few immigrants settled in the basin. The 1858 discovery of silver in nearby Virginia City resulted in extensive logging of the Tahoe basin to supply timbers for the mines.
It wasn't until the early 20th Century that the area was recognized for its recreational potential. Reports sprang up beginning 1912 to be followed by the lavish estates of wealthy families. By the 1960's, the development of lakeside casinos and the skiing industry resulted in the mountain playground we enjoy today.
Note: Extracted from "Lake Tahoe - A photographic Journey" - a compilation of photographs of one of the world's natural wonders by more than 25 talented photographers. Their work captures the soul of this magnificent Lake through the four seasons. The history of Lake Tahoe, its geology, ecology and people are closely linked to the brilliant color exploding off of every page. The book is available for purchase at Heavenly Valley Lodge.
Please take a look at these amazing photos by one of our recent guests, Meocre Li, and see some more of his professional shots here: Smugmug