Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe (/ˈtɑːh/) is a freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada of the United States. Lying at 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it straddles the state line between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America,[4] and at 122,160,280 acre⋅ft (150.7 km3) it trails only the five Great Lakes as the largest by volume in the United States. Its depth is 1,645 ft (501 m), making it the second deepest in the United States after Crater Lake in Oregon (1,949 ft or 594 m).[1]

Lake Tahoe
Dáʔaw (Washo)
The south shore of Lake Tahoe in California, as seen from the west shore
Lake Tahoe
Location of Lake Tahoe in California
Lake Tahoe
Location of Lake Tahoe in Nevada
Lake Tahoe
Location of Lake Tahoe in the USA
Lake Tahoe from space
LocationThe Sierra Nevada of the U.S., along the state line of California and Nevada
Coordinates39°N 120°W
Lake typeAncient lake, Geologic block faulting
Primary outflowsTruckee River
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length22 mi (35 km)
Max. width12 mi (19 km)
Surface area191 sq mi (490 km2):[1]
Placer County (41%)
El Dorado County (29%)
Douglas County (13%)
Washoe County (11%)
Carson City (6%)
Average depth1,000 ft (300 m)[1]
Max. depth1,645 ft (501 m)
Water volume36 cu mi (150 km3; 120,000,000 acre⋅ft)[2]
Residence time650 years
Shore length171 mi (114 km)
Surface elevation6,225 ft (1,897 m)[1]
FrozenRarely, in Emerald Bay[3]
IslandsFannette Island
SettlementsIncline Village, NV
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Stateline, NV
Tahoe City, CA
Kings Beach, CA
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

The lake was formed about two million years ago as part of the Lake Tahoe Basin, and its modern extent was shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides.[5] The area surrounding the lake is also referred to as Lake Tahoe, or simply Tahoe; its English name is derived from its Washo name, "Dáʔaw."[6] More than 75% of the lake's watershed is national forest land, covered by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the United States Forest Service.

Lake Tahoe is a major tourist attraction in both Nevada and California. It is home to winter sports, summer outdoor recreation, and scenery enjoyed throughout the year. Snow and ski resorts are a significant part of the area's economy and reputation.[7][8] The Nevada side also offers several lakeside casino resorts, with highways providing year-round access to the entire area.


The name for Lake Tahoe derives from the Washo word for the lake, "Dáʔaw ," meaning "The Lake."[9] Even though dáʔaw is used in the names of other lakes with modifiers (for example, Á’waku dáʔaw for Pyramid Lake, meaning "trout lake"), it often is used without a modifier to refer to Lake Tahoe. This may be because of Tahoe's importance to Washo culture.[10]


Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the U.S., with a maximum depth of 1,645 feet (501 m),[1][11] trailing Oregon's Crater Lake at 1,949 ft (594 m).[11] Tahoe is the 16th[12] deepest lake in the world, and the fifth deepest in average depth. It is about 22 mi (35 km) long and 12 mi (19 km) wide and has 72 mi (116 km) of shoreline and a surface area of 191 square miles (490 km2). 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 (30 m) at its maximum width, and by some 320 feet (98 m) along its length.[13][14] Visibility may vary somewhat with atmospheric refraction;[15] when the air temperature is much greater than the lake temperature, looming may occur where the lake surface or opposing shoreline is lifted above the horizon. Fata Morgana may be responsible for Tahoe Tessie sightings.

North Lake Tahoe aerial photo

Approximately two-thirds of the shoreline is in California.[16] The south shore is dominated by the lake's largest city, South Lake Tahoe, California, which adjoins the town of Stateline, Nevada, while Tahoe City, California, is located on the lake's northwest shore. Kings Beach, California, and Incline Village, Nevada anchor the lake's north shore. Although highways run within sight of the lake shore for much of Tahoe's perimeter, many important parts of the shoreline lie within state parks or are protected by the United States Forest Service. The Lake Tahoe Watershed (USGS Huc 18100200) of 505 sq mi (1,310 km2) is the land area that drains to the lake and the Lake Tahoe drainage divide traverses the same general area as the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Lake Tahoe, view of California shore from Nevada side

Lake Tahoe is fed by 63 tributaries. These drain an area about the same size as the lake and produce half its water, the other half by direct precipitation.

Sunrise over lake Tahoe

The Truckee River is the lake's only outlet,[4] flowing northeast through Reno, Nevada, into Pyramid Lake which has no outlet. It accounts for one third of the water that leaves the lake, the rest evaporating from the lake's vast surface. The flow of the Truckee River and the height of the lake are controlled by the Lake Tahoe Dam at the outlet. The natural rim is at 6,223 ft (1,897 m) above sea level. The maximum legal limit to which the lake can be allowed to rise in order to store water is at 6,229.1 ft (1,898.6 m); a spillway at the dam controls overflow.[17] Around New Year 1996/1997 a Pineapple Express atmospheric river melted snow and caused the lake and river to overflow, inundating Reno and surrounding areas.[18]

Natural history


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.[1] This kind of faulting is characteristic of the geology of the adjoining Great Basin to the east.

Lake Tahoe is the youngest of several extensional basins of the Walker Lane deformation zone that accommodates nearly 0.47 in (12 mm) per year of dextral shear between the Sierra Nevada-Great Valley Block and North America.[19][20]

Three principal faults form the Lake Tahoe basin: the West Tahoe Fault, aligned between Meyers and Tahoe City, and which is the local segment of the Sierra Nevada Fault, extending on shore north and south of these localities;[21] the Stateline/North Tahoe Fault, starting in the middle of the lake and creating the relief that forms Stateline, NV; and the Incline Village Fault, which runs parallel to the Stateline/North Tahoe Fault offshore and into Incline Village.[22] The West Tahoe Fault appears to be the most active and potentially hazardous fault in the basin. A study in Fallen Leaf Lake, just south of Lake Tahoe, used seafloor mapping techniques to image evidence for paleoearthquakes on the West Tahoe and revealed the last earthquake occurred between 4,100 and 4,500 years ago.[23] Subsequent studies revealed submarine landslides in Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe that are thought to have been triggered by earthquakes on the West Tahoe fault and the timing of these events suggests a recurrence interval of 3,000–4,000 years.[24]

Some of the highest peaks of the Lake Tahoe Basin that formed during the process of Lake Tahoe creation are Freel Peak at 10,891 feet (3,320 m), Monument Peak at 10,067 feet (3,068 m), Pyramid Peak at 9,984 feet (3,043 m) (in the Desolation Wilderness), and Mount Tallac at 9,735 feet (2,967 m).[1] The north shore boasts three peaks at over 10,000 feet (3,048 m): Mount Rose at 10,785 feet (3,287 m), Mount Houghton 10,490 feet (3,197 m) and Relay Peak 10,388 feet (3,166 m). Mt. Rose is a very popular hiking and backcountry skiing destination.

Eruptions from the extinct volcano Mount Pluto formed a volcanic 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.[25]

The Sierra Nevada adjacent to Lake Tahoe were carved by scouring glaciers during the Ice Ages, which began a million or more years ago, and retreated ~15,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene. The glaciers carved canyons that are today iconic landmarks such as Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake, among others. Lake Tahoe itself never held glaciers, but instead water is retained by damming Miocene volcanic deposits.

Soils of the basin come primarily from andesitic volcanic rocks and granodiorite, with minor areas of metamorphic rock. Some of the valley bottoms and lower hill slopes are mantled with glacial moraines, or glacial outwash material derived from the parent rock. Sandy soils, rock outcrops and rubble and stony colluvium account for over 70% of the land area in the basin. The basin soils (in the < 2 mm fraction) are generally 65–85% sand (0.05–2.0 mm).

Given the great depth of Lake Tahoe, and the locations of the normal faults in 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 33 ft (3 to 10 m) in height, capable of traversing the lake in just a few minutes.[26] A massive collapse of the western edge of the basin that formed McKinney Bay around 50,000 years ago is thought to have generated a tsunami/seiche wave with a height approaching 330 ft (100 m).[27]


Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe in background from Angora Ridge Rd. to the Angora Lakes Resort

Lake Tahoe has a dry-summer continental climate (Dsb in the Köppen climate classification), featuring warm, dry summers and chilly winters with regular snowfall. Mean annual precipitation ranges from over 55 inches (1440 mm) for watersheds on the west side of the basin to about 26 inches (660 mm) near the lake on the east side of the basin. Most of the precipitation falls as snow between November and April, although rainstorms combined with rapid snowmelt account for the largest floods. There is a pronounced annual runoff of snowmelt in late spring and early summer, the timing of which varies from year to year. In some years, summertime monsoon storms from the Great Basin bring intense rainfall, especially to high elevations on the northeast side of the basin.

August is normally the warmest month at the Lake Tahoe Airport (elevation 6,254 ft, 1,906 m) with an average maximum of 78.7 °F (25.9 °C) and an average minimum of 39.8 °F (4.3 °C). January is the coolest month with an average maximum of 41.0 °F (5.0 °C) and an average minimum of 15.1 °F (−9.4 °C). The all-time maximum of 99 °F (37.2 °C) was recorded on July 22, 1988. The all-time minimum of −16 °F (−26.7 °C) was recorded on December 9, 1972. Temperatures exceed 90 °F (32.2 °C) on an average of 2.0 days annually. Minimum temperatures of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower occur on an average of 231.8 days annually, and minimum temperatures of 0 °F (−17.8 °C) or lower occur on an average of 7.6 days annually. Freezing temperatures have occurred in every month of the year.[28][29]

Climate data for Tahoe City, California (Elevation 6,230 ft, 1,899 m)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 59
Average high °F (°C) 38.6
Average low °F (°C) 19.1
Record low °F (°C) −14
Average precipitation inches (mm) 5.97
Average snowfall inches (cm) 45.9
Source: The Western Regional Climate Center[30]


Damaged beaver dam on Blackwood Creek. Beaver dams are easily crossed by trout and their ponds may serve as critical breaks for wildfires.[31][32]

Vegetation in the basin is dominated by a mixed conifer forest of jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), lodgepole pine (P. contorta), white fir (Abies concolor), red fir (A. magnifica), sugar pine (P. lambertiana), California incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa), and western white pine (P. monticola).[33] The basin also contains significant areas of wet meadows and riparian areas, dry meadows, brush fields (with Arctostaphylos and Ceanothus) and rock outcrop areas, especially at higher elevations. Ceanothus is capable of fixing nitrogen, but mountain alder (Alnus tenuifolia), which grows along many of the basin's streams, springs and seeps, fixes far greater quantities, and contributes measurably to nitrate-N concentrations in some small streams. The beaches of Lake Tahoe are the only known habitat for the rare Lake Tahoe yellowcress (Rorippa subumbellata), a plant which grows in the wet sand between low- and high-water marks.[34] Vegetation in the lake itself formerly consisted of native Chara and Gomphoneis algae and coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), but the later introduction of curlyleaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), and Zygnema and Cladophora algae has transformed the nearshore environment.[35]

Native fish of the lake include Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi), mountain whitefish (Prosopiurm williamsoni), Lahontan speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus robustus), Lahontan redside (Rhinichthys egregious), Lahontan Lake tui chub (Siphateles bicolor pectinifer), Tahoe sucker (Catostomus tahoensis), Lahontan mountain sucker (Catostomus platyrhynchus lahontan), and Paiute sculpin (Cottus beldingi). Most of these fish populations have been significantly reduced due to the introduction of nonnative fish, Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea), and mysid shrimp. Competition from introduced fish led cutthroat trout to be completely extirpated from the lake in the early 20th century until reintroduction efforts started in 2019.[36][37][35]

Introduced fish species include lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri), sockeye salmon (Oncorhyncus nerka), brown trout (Salmo trutta), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas), western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), black (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and white (P. annularis) crappie, largemouth (Micropterus salmoides) and smallmouth (Micropterus dolomieu) bass, and brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus).[35][36] Each autumn, from late September through mid-October, mature sockeye salmon transform from silver-blue color to a fiery vermilion, and run up Taylor Creek, near South Lake Tahoe. As spawning season approaches the fish acquire a humpback and protuberant jaw. After spawning they die and their carcasses provide a feast for gatherings of mink (Neogale vison), bears (Ursus americanus), and bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The non-native salmon were transplanted from the North Pacific to Lake Tahoe in 1944.[38]

North American beaver (Castor canadensis) were re-introduced to the Tahoe Basin by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service between 1934 and 1949. Descended from no more than nine individuals, 1987 beaver populations on the upper and lower Truckee River had reached a density of 0.72 colonies (3.5 beavers) per kilometer.[39] At the present time beaver have been seen in Tahoe Keys, Taylor Creek, Meeks Creek at Meeks Bay on the western shore, and Kings Beach on the north shore, so the descendants of the original nine beavers have apparently migrated around most of Lake Tahoe.[40][41] Recently novel physical evidence has demonstrated that beaver were native to the Sierra until at least the mid-nineteenth century, via radiocarbon dating of buried beaver dam wood uncovered by deep channel incision in the Feather River watershed.[42] That report was supported by a summary of indirect evidence of beaver including reliable observer accounts of beaver in multiple watersheds from the northern to the southern Sierra Nevada, including its eastern slope.[43] A specific documented record of beaver living historically in Lake Tahoe's North Canyon Creek watershed above Glenbrook includes a description of Spooner Meadow rancher Charles Fulstone hiring a caretaker to control the beaver population in the early 20th century.[44] A recent study of Taylor Creek showed that beaver dam removal decreased wetland habitat, increased stream flow, and increased total phosphorus pollutants entering Lake Tahoe – all factors which negatively impact the clarity of the lake's water.[45] In addition, beaver dams located in Ward Creek, located on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, were also shown to decrease nutrients and sediments traveling downstream.[45]

The lake's low temperatures and extreme depth can slow the decomposition rate of organic matter. For example, the almost perfectly preserved body of a diver was found at a depth of 300 feet (90 m) 17 years after he went missing.[46]

Human history

Native peoples

The area around Lake Tahoe was previously inhabited by the Washoe Native Americans. Lake Tahoe was the center and heart of Washoe Indian territory, including the upper valleys of the Walker, Carson and Truckee Rivers.

Cave Rock is a large rock formation located on the southeastern shore of the lake and considered a sacred site for the Washoe Indians. The Washoe people called Cave Rock deʔek wadapush (Washo for Standing Gray Rock). Part of why the Washoe felt the Cave was sacred was due to "The Lady of the Lake" a rock formation on the side of the Cave which looks like the profile of a woman's face gazing out towards the lake. Washoe ancestors performed religious ceremonies inside the cave. There were significant but ultimately unsuccessful protests from the tribe when a tunnel was blasted through the rock in 1931 for Highway 50.[47]

Exploration and naming

Lt. John C. Frémont was the first European-American to see Lake Tahoe, during his second exploratory expedition on February 14, 1844.[48] Fremont named it "Lake Bonpland" after Aimé Bonpland (a French botanist who had accompanied Prussian explorer Alexander von Humboldt in his exploration of Mexico, Colombia and the Amazon River).[49] Lake Bonpland's usage never became popular, and the name changed from "Mountain Lake" to "Fremont's Lake“ several years after. John Calhoun Johnson, Sierra explorer and founder of "Johnson's Cutoff" (now U.S. Route 50), named it Fallen Leaf Lake after his Indian guide. Johnson's first job in the west was in the government service carrying the mail on snowshoes from Placerville to Nevada City, during which time he named it "Lake Bigler" after California's third governor John Bigler. In 1853 William Eddy, the surveyor general of California, identified the lake as Lake Bigler.

An 1860s map of "Lake Bigler" during the name controversy

The usage never became universal. By the start of the American Civil War in 1861, former Governor Bigler, once a Free Soil Democrat, had become such an ardent Confederate sympathizer that Union advocates objected to the name. Unionists and Republicans alike derided the former governor's name on the lake on official state maps. Pro-Union papers called for a "change from this Secesh appellation" and "no Copperhead names on our landmarks for us."[49] Several Unionist members in the Legislature suggested changing the name to the fanciful sounding "Tula Tulia." The Sacramento Union jokingly suggested the name "Largo Bergler" for Bigler's widely perceived financial incompetency in his final term and contemporary Southern sympathies. Within a year, different maps referred to the lake not only as Bigler, but also as "Mountain Lake" and "Maheon Lake."

The debate took a new direction when 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 argument in 1862. As Knight completed a new map of the lake, the mapmaker asked DeGroot for a new name of the lake. DeGroot suggested "Tahoe," a local tribal name he believed meant "water in a high place." Knight agreed, and telegraphed to the Land Office in Washington, D.C. to officially change all federal maps to now read "Lake Tahoe." Knight later explained his desire for a name change, writing, "I remarked (to many) that people had expressed dissatisfaction with the name "Bigler", bestowed in honor of a man who had not distinguished himself by any single achievement, and I thought now would be a good time to select an appropriate name and fix it forever on that beautiful sheet of water."[50]

"Lake Tahoe," also like "Lake Bigler," did not gain universal acceptance. Mark Twain, a critic of the new name, called it an "unmusical cognomen." In an 1864 editorial regarding the name in the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Twain cited Bigler as being "the legitimate name of the Lake, and it will be retained until some name less flat, insipid and spooney than "Tahoe" is invented for it."[51] In Twain's 1869 novel Innocents Abroad, Twain continued to deride the name in his foreign travels. "People say that Tahoe means 'Silver Lake' – 'Limpid Water' – 'Falling Leaf.' Bosh! It means grasshopper soup, the favorite dish of the digger tribe – and of the Paiutes as well."[52] The Placerville Mountain Democrat began a notorious rumor that "Tahoe" was actually an Indian renegade who plundered upon White settlers. To counter the federal government, the California State Legislature reaffirmed in 1870 that the lake was indeed called "Lake Bigler."

But to most surveys and the general public it was known as Lake Tahoe.[53] By the end of the 19th century, usage of "Lake Bigler" had nearly completely fallen out of popular vocabulary in favor of "Tahoe." The California State Legislature reversed its previous decision in 1945, officially changing the name to Lake Tahoe.

Mining era

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. Europeans first impinged upon 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.[54] The logging was so extensive that loggers cut down almost all of the native forest.[55]

Lake Tahoe became a transportation hub for the surrounding area as mining and logging commenced prior to development of railroads. The first mail delivery was via a sailboat which took a week to visit each of the lakeside communities.[56] The first steamboat on Lake Tahoe was the 42-foot (13 m) paddle wheel tugboat Governor Blasdel towing log rafts to a sawmill on the south side of Glenbrook Bay from 1863 until her boiler exploded in 1877. The 40-foot (12 m) Truckee and 55-foot (17 m) propeller-driven Emerald were also towing log rafts in 1870.[57] J.A. Todman brought steam-powered passenger service to Lake Tahoe in 1872 with the 100-foot (30 m) 125-passenger side-wheel steamer Governor Stanford which reduced the mail delivery trip around Lake Tahoe to eight hours.[58] Todman expanded service with steamboats Mamie, Niagara, and Tod Goodwin. Lawrence & Comstock provided competition with their steel-hulled steamboat Tallac in 1890 and later purchased Todman's steamboats Mamie and Tod Goodwin. The Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company purchased the 83-foot (25 m) Niagara and built the iron-hulled steamboats Meteor in 1876 and Emerald (II) in 1887. The 75-foot (23 m) Meteor was the fastest boat on Lake Tahoe with a speed of 22 miles (35 km) per hour. Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company dominated the passenger and mail route after launch of their 200-passenger steamboat Tahoe on June 24, 1896. The 154-ton Tahoe was 170 feet (52 m) long with a slender 18-foot (5.5 m) beam so her 1,200 horsepower (890 kW) engines could push her over the lake at 18.5 knots. Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company purchased Tallac and rebuilt her as Nevada with length increased by 20 feet (6.1 m) to serve as a backup steamboat when Tahoe required maintenance.[56]

Tod Goodwin burned at Tallac, and most of the other steamboats were retired as the sawmills ran out of trees and people began traveling by automobile.[56] Niagara was scrapped at Tahoe City in 1900.[58] Governor Stanford was beached at Glenbrook where its boiler was used until 1942 heating cottages at Glenbrook Inn and Ranch. Steamboats continued to carry a mail clerk around Lake Tahoe until 1934, when the mail contract was given to the 42-foot (13 m) motorboat Marian B powered by two Chevrolet engines. Mail delivery moved ashore after the Marian B was lost on May 17, 1941, when her owner and the mail clerk attempted mail delivery during a storm.[56] The 60-foot (18 m) Emerald (II) left Lake Tahoe in 1935 to become a fishing boat in San Diego.[57] Historic Tahoe, Nevada, and Meteor were purchased with hope they might be preserved; but were scuttled in deep water after deterioration made preservation impractical. The latter two lie in Glenbrook Bay, but Tahoe sank in deeper water.[56]


Even in the mining era, the potential of the basin as a tourist destination was recognized. Tahoe City was founded in 1864 as a resort community for Virginia City.[55]

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.[55]

The only outlet of Lake Tahoe and the headwaters of the Truckee River at Lake Tahoe Dam

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 Lake Tahoe Dam built in 1913 at the lake's only outlet, the Truckee River, at Tahoe City. The 18-foot (5.5 m) high dam can increase the lake's capacity by 744,600 acre⋅ft (918,500,000 m3).[59]

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 Olympic Valley (then known by the derogatory term "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.[55] Since the 1980s, development has slowed due to controls on land use.

Interstate boundary dispute

Lake Tahoe is divided by the prominent interstate boundary between California and Nevada, where the two states' edges make their iconic directional turn near the middle of the lake. This boundary has been disputed since the mid-nineteenth century.[60]

As part of the compromise of 1850, California was speedily admitted to the Union. In doing so, Congress approved the California Constitution which defined the state's boundary in reference to geographical coordinates. This includes the section of the 120th meridian that is between the 42nd parallel at the Oregon border to the 39th parallel amid Lake Tahoe, and an oblique line continuing from that point southward to where the Colorado River crosses the 35th parallel.[61] Fourteen years later, Congress approved the Nevada Constitution when it was admitted as a state in 1864, which defined its western border at the forty third degree of Longitude West from Washington, D.C. and its southwestern border along the oblique section of the boundary line of California. While 43 degrees of longitude west from the Washington Meridian does not really coincide with the 120 degrees longitude west of Greenwich, the 1864 Congress was of the belief that the two lines were identical; the former was abandoned nationally in 1884. The centuries long dispute that erupted began with boundary discrepancies across many surveys within which were valuable mineral deposits; Nevada also had a wish that California would assent to cede its land east of the pacific crest as had been preauthorized by Congress in 1850.[60] The first consequential attempt to mark the California-Nevada boundary was the 1863 J.F. Houghton and Butler Ives line. An 1867-1868 survey of the California-Oregon border by Daniel G. Major for the General Land Office found the 120th meridian more than two miles west of the prior line, so it was followed by the 1872 survey by Alexey W. Von Schmidt. Against initial instructions, Von Schmidt began his survey with the 1872 California-Nevada State Boundary Marker[62] which was six-tenths of a mile east of the Houghton-Ives line. When he discovered the Colorado River had shifted at the 35th parallel, he simply changed the endpoint resulting in a survey that was neither straight nor accurate. Substantial doubts led Congress in 1892 to fund the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey to remark the oblique line.[63][64] This new survey found the Von Schmidt line to be 1,600 to 1,800 feet too far west, but both surveys were then used by both states.[65] Unsurprisingly, the combination of the 1893 C.G.S. survey's oblique line and Schmidt's well marked north–south line do not intersect precisely at the 39th parallel as mandated by the California Constitution. Congress does not have the constitutional power to unilaterally move state boundaries.

The wealth in natural resources between the Sierra Crest and the easternmost sections of survey lines created a powerful source for conflict. Major mining sites in the Tahoe area were in disputed territory. In a striking display of opportunism which ostensibly occurred because the boundary was still "officially" unsurveyed, settlers arrogated parts of California up to the irregular Sierra Crest tens of miles east of the boundary—defined over six years prior—in an attempt to create Nataqua Territory. An armed skirmish known as the Sagebrush War included gunshots exchanged between militia.[66] Even after six surveys, conflict remained over which of them, if any, were legally binding in marking the boundary;[65] this was partially heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1980, where the doctrine of acquiescence was invoked.[61]

A boundary defined in terms of geographical coordinates is theoretically precise, but poses pragmatic challenges to implement. Where a particular coordinate actually lies on the surface of the earth is dependent on the figure of the Earth. In the mid-1800s the Bessel ellipsoid of 1841 or the Clarke ellipsoid of 1866 were widely used; the Hayford ellipsoid of 1910 may later have been used by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. The standard ellipsoid for western states in 1849—which is generally congruent with that year's version of the Astronomical Almanac—is implicit in California's constitutional boundary definition; incessant invention of new datums by new and potentially interested parties do not re-render the old boundary definition. Holding assumptions of the earth back-in-time, modern satellite assisted survey techniques can determine location and transform them onto old ellipsoids to within a centimeter. Celestial navigation[67][68] techniques by contrast, are accurate up to two-fifths of a mile; uncertainty in the latter was known, but precision then was unobtainable.

The legacy of this dispute continues.[65] There is an official federal[63] obelisk-shaped monument marking the oblique California border, which is now surrounded by Edgewood Tahoe golf resort that is claimed and taxed by Nevada.[63][64][69] A federal survey monument was removed to the Lake Tahoe Historical Society circa 2018.[68] The Von Schmidt line crosses US 50 on the west edge of present-day Applebee's, and the east edge of the Marcus Ashley Gallery in Tahoe Crescent V Shopping Center.[69][70] The Nevada community of Stateline has been moved east.[71]

The boundary splits Lake Tahoe unevenly, with two-thirds in California and one-third in Nevada.[72] In California, Lake Tahoe is divided between Placer County and El Dorado County. In Nevada, Lake Tahoe is divided among Washoe County, Douglas County and Carson City (an independent city).

Shorezone and beach ownership

Lake Tahoe is a U.S. Navigable Waterway,[73][74] under federal jurisdiction,[75][76][77] and the public is allowed to occupy any watercraft as close to any shore as the craft is navigable.[74] Public capacity to navigate across any land formerly inundated by the waterway is not extinguished by the lowering of the lake level; this federal easement is maintained under United States law.[78] Because small fluctuations in the height of the shoreline can result in substantive temporal immersions by the lake surface, the irreversible public easement slowly grows larger in size.

While the submerged lands generally belong to the state,[79] the water held in the lake is federally controlled by the US Bureau of Reclamation,[80] and immersion of the shoreline itself would be a common law trespass against east lakefront property owners if it were not for the land—below the theoretical maximum elevation of the lake—being in a perpetual federal easement.[81][78][82] Neither state has the authority to rescind navigability along the shoreline below the highmark of the waterbody, because it has been granted under federal law through the Enumerated powers of the United States. The entire waterbody is navigable; it is common for the majority of users to be operating negligible draft one-person craft such as kayaks and standup paddleboards.[74] The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency does not have the authority to override existing federal law even if it was also created by Congress.

Like the interstate boundary itself, the high watermark has been disputed as well.[83][84] The theoretical maximum elevation of the lake is 6,229.1 feet (1,898.6 m), using the Lake Tahoe datum. The yearly maximum is commonly 0.35 feet (0.11 m) lower.[83] Strong winds across the lake's substantial fetch can create a surge which further lifts the high-water line on leeward shores, known as a seiche.

California side

On the California side, the shorezone is expressly maintained in a constitutionally[85] and statutorily[86] protected public trust,[87] analogous to an easement,[83][84] which is managed by the California State Lands Commission.[88] As public land, the shorezone on this side may be used for nearly any purpose,[83] rather than just travel. Building new piers can infringe on the public trust, which among many things, is purposed to preserve the land in its natural state.[83] Accretions created in the shorezone by artificial means remain as public land because they are part of the public trust.[89][90][91] The private Lakeside Park Association has made such an artificial accretion of land that is freely open for public use.[91][92] Access to and from the shorezone across private land on publicly enjoyed paths is by right-of-way[93] or prescriptive easement.[94][95][96][97] Recent attempts by Lakefront Homeowners to use piers as "easement fences" to obstruct beach travel are encroaching centuries of established easement and admiralty law.[83]

Nevada side

The accessibility of the Nevada beach-land below the high watermark has been the source of practical rather than legal controversy. The land is a public trust or easement under the Rivers and Harbors Act, the Submerged Lands Act, and the several Coast Guard Authorization Acts,[78] but affluent beachfront landowners and their elected civic leaders maintain the land is effectively private under state law because state law enforcement is not charged with enforcing federal law.[98] They dispute the high water mark itself by arguing that the state of Nevada has not agreed[99][82] to either a highwater level or datum with California and the US.[100][101] Some Civic leaders for the Nevada shore have been pushing a frivolous[78][102] states rights theory of property law—which intermittently nullifies federal easements whenever the lake level recedes—which has never been tested in federal court.[99][103][102] Instilling public fear of criminal trespassing is the core goal under the theory, which if actually prosecuted would be a risky power play. The sheriffs in Nevada are elected officials; false arrest can lead to an official's imprisonment and cost their electorate hundreds of thousands of dollars.[104][105][106][107][103][108] To be convicted of trespassing, one must be beyond reasonable doubt above the highwater mark, which under their states rights theory is an arbitrary fact to be found.[109][101]


As the population grew and development expanded in the 1960s, the question of protecting the lake became more imperative. In 1969, the U.S. Congress and the California and Nevada State Legislatures created a unique compact to share resources and responsibilities. The Compact established the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), a bi-state agency charged with environmental protection of the Basin through land-use regulation and planning.[110] In 1980, the U.S. Congress amended the Compact with public law 96-551. The law designated a new agency, the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD), to facilitate and implement Basin and regional transportation improvements/additions for the protection, restoration and use of the lake. Schisms between both agencies and local residents have led to the formation of grass-roots organizations that hold to even stricter environmentalism.[111]

Historical locations

Lake Tahoe is also the location of several 19th and 20th century palatial homes of historical significance. The Thunderbird Lodge built by George Whittel Jr once included nearly 27 miles (43 km) of the Nevada shoreline. Vikingsholm was the original settlement on Emerald Bay and included an island teahouse and a 38-room home. The Ehrman Mansion is a summer home built by a former Wells Fargo president in Sugar Pine Point and is now a state park. The Pony Express had a route that went from Genoa Station over Daggett Pass to Friday's Station and Yanks Station; it succeeded the route through Woodford's Station and Fountain Place Station both on the way to Strawberry Station.[112]

Environmental issues

Water quality

An example of road runoff with fine sediment at El Dorado Beach. However, this storm drain was removed during construction. The new beach now called Lakeview Commons opened in mid-2012.
Average Lake Tahoe Clarity  As Measured by Secchi Depth.[113]

Despite land-use planning and export of treated sewage effluent from the basin, the lake is becoming increasingly eutrophic (having an excessive richness of nutrients), with primary productivity increasing by more than 5% annually, and clarity decreasing at an average rate of 0.82 feet (0.25 m) per year.[114] Until the early 1980s, nutrient-limitation studies showed that primary productivity in the lake was nitrogen-limited. Now, after a half-century of accelerated nitrogen input (much of it from direct atmospheric deposition), the lake is phosphorus-limited. Theodore Swift et al.,[115] concluded that "suspended inorganic sediments and phytoplanktonic algae both contribute significantly to the reduction in clarity, and that suspended particulate matter, rather than dissolved organic matter, are the dominant causes of clarity loss." The largest source of fine sediment particles to Lake Tahoe is urban stormwater runoff, constituting 72 percent of the total fine sediment particle load.[116] Recent research has shown that the urban uplands also provide the largest opportunity to reduce fine sediment particle and phosphorus contributions to the lake. Historic clarity of approximately 98 feet (30 m) can be achieved with total reduction of approximately 75 percent from urban sources.[117]

Historically, the clarity of Lake Tahoe continued to decrease through 2010, when the average Secchi depth, 64.4 feet (19.6 m), was the second lowest ever recorded (the lowest was 64.1 feet (19.5 m) in 1997). This represented a decrease of 3.7 feet (1.1 m) from the previous year.[118] However, the lake's clarity increased from 2011 to 2014, improving by nearly 20 percent.[119][120]

A water quality study by the Lahontan Water Quality Control Board and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection[121] determined the largest source of fine sediment particles: 71 percent is developed area (urban) erosion and run-off, much of it associated with transportation infrastructure and services.[122]

Lake Tahoe is a tributary watershed drainage element within the Truckee River Basin, and its sole outlet is the Truckee River, which continues on to discharge to Pyramid Lake. Because of the sensitivity of Truckee River water quality (involving two protected species, the cui-ui[123] sucker fish and the Lahontan cutthroat trout), this drainage basin has been studied extensively. The primary investigations were stimulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which funded the development of the DSSAM model to analyze water quality below Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe never freezes.[124] Since 1970, it has mixed to a depth of at least 1,300 ft (400 m) a total of six or seven times. Dissolved oxygen is relatively high from top to bottom. Analysis of the temperature records in Lake Tahoe has shown that the lake warmed (between 1969 and 2002) at an average rate of 0.027 °F (0.015 °C) per year. The warming is caused primarily by increasing air temperatures, and secondarily by increasing downward long-wave radiation. The warming trend is reducing the frequency of deep mixing in the lake, and may have important effects on water clarity and nutrient cycling.

Ecosystem changes

Since the 1960s, the Lake's food web and zooplankton populations have undergone major changes. In 1963–65, opossum shrimp (Mysis diluviana) were introduced to enhance the food supply for the introduced Kokanee salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka).[125] The shrimp began feeding on the lake's cladocerans (Daphnia and Bosmina), and their populations virtually disappeared by 1971.[126] The shrimp provide a food resource for salmon and trout, but also compete with juvenile fish for zooplankton. Since the 1970s, the cladoceran populations have somewhat recovered, but not to former levels. Since 2006, goldfish have been observed in the lake, where they have grown to "giant size", behaving like an invasive species. They may have descended from former pets which owners dumped or escaped, when used as fishing bait.[127]

In June 2007, the Angora Fire burned approximately 3,100 acres (1,300 ha) throughout the South Lake Tahoe area. While the impact of ash on the lake's ecosystem is predicted to be minimal, the impact of potential future erosion is not yet known.[128]

Environmental protection

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Secret Beach on Lake Tahoe's Nevada side

Until recently, construction on the banks of the Lake had been largely under the control of real estate developers. Construction activities have resulted in a clouding of the lake's blue waters. Currently, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is regulating construction along the shoreline[129] (and has won two Federal Supreme Court battles over recent decisions).[130] These regulations are unpopular with many residents, especially those in the Tahoe Lakefront Homeowners Association.[131]

The League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue) has been an environmental watchdog in the Lake Tahoe Basin for 50 years.[132] Founded when a proposal to build a four-lane highway around the lake—with a bridge over the entrance to Emerald Bay—was proposed in 1957, the League has opposed many development projects in the area, which it alleges were environmentally harmful. The League embraces responsible and diversified use of the Lake's resources while protecting and restoring its natural attributes.[132]

Since 1980, the Lake Tahoe Interagency Monitoring Program (LTIMP) has been measuring stream discharge and concentrations of nutrients and sediment in up to 10 tributary streams in the Lake Tahoe Basin, California-Nevada. The objectives of the LTIMP are to acquire and disseminate the water quality information necessary to support science-based environmental planning and decision making in the basin. The LTIMP is a cooperative program with support from 12 federal and state agencies with interests in the Tahoe Basin. This data set, together with more recently acquired data on urban runoff water quality, is being used by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to develop a program (mandated by the Clean Water Act) to limit the flux of nutrients and fine sediment to the Lake.

Microplastics were found for the first time in 2019 by the Desert Research Institute. This pollution in the water could be local or from locations around the world as particles from discarded plastic products can be transported long distances through the atmosphere by wind, rain and falling snow.[133]

The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center is dedicated to research, education and public outreach, and to providing objective scientific information for restoration and sustainable use of the Lake Tahoe Basin.[134] Each year, it produces a "State of the Lake" report, assessing changes such as lake clarity, nutrients and particles, or meteorology around the lake.

A view from the east shore of Lake Tahoe

Tourist activities

Much of the area surrounding Lake Tahoe is devoted to the tourism industry and there are many restaurants, ski slopes, golf courses and casinos catering to visitors.

Winter sports

Ski slopes overlooking Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe Gondola Ride

During ski season, thousands of people from all over Nevada and California, including Reno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, flock to the slopes for downhill skiing. Lake Tahoe, in addition to its panoramic beauty, is well known for its blizzards.[7]

Some of the major ski areas in Tahoe include:

  • Heavenly Mountain Resort: the largest ski area in California and Nevada, located near Stateline on the South Shore
  • Palisades Tahoe: the second largest ski area, known for its hosting of the 1960 Winter Olympics, located near Tahoe City
  • Alpine Meadows: a medium-sized ski area on the north shore only a few miles from Olympic Valley and operated as part of Palisades Tahoe
  • Diamond Peak: a small ski area located in Incline Village, Nevada
  • Northstar California: a popular north shore ski area, know for its consistently rated top 10 North American terrain park[135]
  • Kirkwood Mountain Resort: a ski area which gets more snow than any other ski area in the Tahoe region
  • Sierra-at-Tahoe: a medium-sized south shore ski area
  • Boreal Mountain Resort: a small ski area on Donner Pass
  • Sugar Bowl Ski Resort: a medium-sized ski area on Donner Pass
  • Donner Ski Ranch: a very small ski area on Donner Pass
  • Homewood Mountain Resort: a medium-sized ski area on the west shore
  • Mount Rose Ski Resort: a medium-sized ski area north-east of the Lake, on Slide Mountain

The majority of the ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region are on the northern end of the lake, near Truckee, California and Reno, Nevada. Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly are located on the southern side of the lake, 55–75 miles (90–120 km) from Reno. Scattered throughout Tahoe are public and private sled parks. Some, such as Granlibakken are equipped with rope tows to help sledders get up the hill.

Many ski areas around Tahoe also have snow tubing, such as Olympic Valley. Throughout Tahoe, cross-country skiing, snowmobile riding and snowshoeing are also popular.

The NHL hosted 2 outdoor games at Lake Tahoe in 2021.[136]

Water sports

A sailboat on Lake Tahoe

During late Spring to early Fall, the lake is popular for water sports and beach activities. The two cities most identified with the Lake Tahoe tourist area are South Lake Tahoe, California and the smaller Stateline; smaller centers on the northern shoreline include Tahoe City and Kings Beach.

Other popular activities include parasailing, jet ski rentals, eco-friendly paddle sport rentals and fishing.[137] There are rental locations around Lake Tahoe. Kayaking and stand up paddle boards have also become very popular.

Boating is a primary activity in Tahoe in the summer. The lake is home to one of the most prestigious wooden boat shows in the country, the Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance, held every August. There are lake front restaurants all over the lake, most equipped with docks and buoys (See the restaurants section). There are all sorts of boating events, such as sailboat racing, firework shows over the lake, guided cruises, and more. As an interstate waterway, Lake Tahoe is subject to the United States Coast Guard. Lake Tahoe is home to Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe.[138]

SCUBA diving is popular at Lake Tahoe, with some dive sites offering dramatic drop-offs or wall dives. Diving at Lake Tahoe is considered advanced due to the increased risk of decompression sickness (DCS) while diving at such a high altitude.[139][140]

Fred Rogers became the first person to swim the length of Lake Tahoe in 1955, and Erline Christopherson became the first woman to do so in 1962.[141][142]


Motorcycle by Lake Tahoe

The lake and its scenic environs provide many opportunities for motorcyclists to ride both on and off-road. The most popular circuit that goes around the lake runs clockwise and starts in South Lake Tahoe on the California side.[143] Riding north via route 89 allows riders to pull over to the right to admire the views without crossing traffic. Continuing onto highway 28 East, and finally, onto US-50 West will complete the full tour. Doing it in reverse allows experiencing the views from a different perspective. Kingsbury Grade (highway 207) is another popular route with local motorcyclists. It is only 11 miles long from South Lake Tahoe to Mottsville and can also be ridden in both directions. Some of the most scenic motorcycling stops and views around the lake :

  • Emerald Bay – southwest Lake Tahoe, off Highway 89
  • Fallen Leaf Lake – 6 miles southwest of South Lake, via Highway 89
  • Zephyr Cove – 6 miles north of South Lake, off Highway 50
  • Cave Rock – 9 miles north of South Lake, off Highway 50
  • Sand Harbor – northwest Lake Tahoe, off Highway 28
  • Kings Beach – North Lake Tahoe, off Highway 28
  • Donner Lake – 21 miles north of Lake Tahoe, off I-80

Hiking and bicycling

View from the Tahoe Rim Trail

There are numerous hiking and mountain biking trails around the lake. They range widely in length, difficulty and popularity. One of the most famous of Tahoe's trails is the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile (270-km) trail that circumnavigates the lake. Directly to the west of the lake is the Granite Chief Wilderness, which provides great hiking and wilderness camping. Also, to the southwest is the very popular Desolation Wilderness. One of the most popular trailheads used to access these popular destinations is Eagle Lake trailhead, located near Emerald Bay on Tahoe's west shore. The Flume Trail of the east shore is one of Mountain Biking Magazine's Top 10 Trails in the U.S. There are also many paved off-road bicycle paths that meander through communities on all sides of the lake.


Gambling is legal on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. Casinos, each with a variety of slot machines and table games are available. Four are located on the South Shore in Stateline, and four on the North Shore; three in Crystal Bay and one in Incline Village.

When Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, the first casino at the lake had already been open for years. First built on the North Shore in Crystal Bay by Robert Sherman in 1926,[144] the Cal-Neva Lodge became the property of Norman Henry Biltz and was sold to Bill Graham and Jim McKay in 1929.

The Cal-Neva was rebuilt after a fire in 1937 and expanded several times, most noticeably in 1969 when the high-rise hotel was built. Along the way, Frank Sinatra owned the property in the early 1960s, shared his cabins with the likes of Sam Giancana and Marilyn Monroe, and sold out at the height of the area's popularity.

Other casinos at the North Shore include the Crystal Bay Club, first built in 1937 as the Ta-Neva-Ho; the Tahoe Biltmore, and the Nugget. The Hyatt Regency is found at Incline Village.

At South Shore, Bill Harrah purchased the Stateline Country Club, which had stood since 1931 and built Harrah's Tahoe. Other casinos include Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Lake Tahoe, Harveys Lake Tahoe, and Bally's Lake Tahoe.


Lake Tahoe can be reached directly by car, and indirectly by train or air. The nearest passenger train service is the Amtrak station in Truckee, and is served by Amtrak's train, the California Zephyr, which runs daily between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. The closest scheduled passenger airline service is available via the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO). South Tahoe Area Transit Authority is primary mass transportation provider.


Cave Rock Tunnel on US 50
U.S. Route 50 in South Lake Tahoe

Visitors can reach Lake Tahoe under ideal conditions within two hours from the Sacramento area, one hour from Reno or thirty minutes from Carson City. In winter months, chains or snow tires are often necessary to reach Tahoe from any direction. Traffic can be heavy on weekends due to tourists if not also from weather.

The primary routes to Lake Tahoe are on Interstate 80 via Truckee, U.S. Route 50, and Nevada State Route 431 via Reno. Most of the highways accessing and encircling Lake Tahoe are paved two-lane mountain roads. US 50 is a four-lane highway (from the canyon of the South Fork American River at Riverton, over the Sierra Nevada at Echo Summit, and into the Lake Tahoe Basin, is a mainly two-lane road) passing south of the lake and along part of the eastern shore.

California State Route 89 follows the western shore of the lake through the picturesque wilderness and connects camping, fishing and hiking locations such as those at Emerald Bay State Park, DL Bliss State Park and Camp Richardson. Farther along are communities such as Meeks Bay and Tahoe City. Finally, the highway turns away from the lake and heads northwest toward Truckee.

California State Route 28 completes the circuit from Tahoe City around the northern shore to communities such as Kings Beach, Crystal Bay, and into Incline Village, Nevada where the road becomes Nevada State Route 28. Route 28 returns along the eastern shore to US 50 near Spooner Lake.

Major area airports



Placer County

El Dorado County


Douglas County

  • Glenbrook #13
  • Lakeridge #11
  • Logan Creek #12
  • Round Hill Village #8
  • Skyland #10
  • Stateline #17
  • Zephyr Cove #9

Washoe County

In the media

The Ponderosa Ranch of the TV series Bonanza was formerly located on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.[145] The opening sequence of the TV series was filmed at the McFaul Creek Meadow, with Mount Tallac in the background. In September 2004 the Ponderosa Ranch closed its doors, after being sold to developer David Duffield for an undisclosed price.[146][147]

The 1974 film The Godfather Part II used the lakeside estate Fleur de Lac as the location of several scenes, including the elaborate First Communion celebration, the Senator's shakedown attempt of Michael, the assassination attempt on Michael, Michael disowning Fredo, Carmela Corleone's funeral, Fredo's execution while fishing, and the closing scene of Michael sitting alone outside. Fleur de Lac, on the western California shore of Lake Tahoe, was formerly the Henry Kaiser estate. The surrounding lakeside area has been developed into a private gated condominium community and some of the buildings of the "Corleone compound" still exist, including the boathouse.[148]

The 2014 film Last Weekend, starring Patricia Clarkson and directed by Tom Dolby and Tom Williams, used the west shore lakefront home of Ray and Dagmar Dolby as the primary location for its interiors and exteriors. The house, built in 1929, was also the site for the exteriors for A Place in the Sun, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.[149] The 1988 film Things Change was also filmed here.[150]

British rock band A's song "Here We Go Again (I Love Lake Tahoe)" and the accompanying music video centers around the band's love for the lake and the surrounding holiday locations.

The lake is mentioned in the lyrics to the song "Unfair" by cult indie rock band Pavement.

The lake is the setting for Kate Bush's song of the same name from the album 50 Words for Snow. In the song, a woman who drowned in the lake is reunited with her beloved dog in the afterlife.[151] The song was accompanied by a video written and directed by Bush.

See also


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  55.  This article incorporates public domain material from Stream and Ground-Water Monitoring Program, Lake Tahoe Basin, Nevada and California. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved November 24, 2009.
  56. McKean, Owen F. Railroads and Steamers of Lake Tahoe. San Mateo, California: Francis Guido. pp. 9, 14, 15, 30&31.
  57. Noble, Doug (January 12, 2015). "The Early Steamers on the Lake". Doug Steps Out. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  58. McLaughlin, Mark. "Sierra History: a look at Lake Tahoe's wonderful wood-powered steamship past". Sierra Sun. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  59. "Water Delivery Projects and Facilities". Lahontan Basin Area Office. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Archived from the original on October 12, 2011. Retrieved November 24, 2009.
  60. Brean, Henery (May 2, 2009). "Nevada and California have a border dispute going back to 1850". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on February 15, 2001. Retrieved June 4, 2018. Alt URL
  61. California v. Nevada, 44 U.S. 125 (Supreme Court of the United States 1980) ("The two straight-line segments that make up the boundary between California and Nevada were initially defined in California's Constitution of 1849. The first, the "north-south" segment, commences on the Oregon border at the intersection of the 42d parallel and the 120th meridian and runs south along that meridian to the 39th parallel. And the second, the "oblique" segment, begins at that parallel and runs in a southeasterly direction to the point where the Colorado River crosses the 35th parallel. Cal.Const., Art. XII (1849). In 1850, when California was admitted to the Union, Congress approved the 1849 Constitution, and with it California's eastern boundary. Act of Sept. 9, 1850, 9 Stat. 452.").
  62. "NGS Data Sheet – California Nev Iron Mon". Survey Marks and Datasheets. NOAA: National Geodetic Survey.
  63. "NGS Data Sheet – Initial Mon – 1 CA NV". Survey Marks and Datasheets. NOAA: National Geodetic Survey.
  64. "Granite Boundary Monument No. 1 – South Lake Tahoe, CA". Groundspeak, Inc. Retrieved June 20, 2018. 01/01/1894 by CGS (monumented)
    Described by Coast and Geodetic Survey 1894 (CHS) this station was established in 1894 on the shore of Lake Tahoe, and marked by a granite stone with a copper bolt in it. The stone projects about 14 inches above ground, and was not disturbed when a granite monument was placed alongside it in June, 1899. The monument was set in concrete, and the hole was enlarged so as to include the old stone in the concrete mass. Being the first stone in the oblique boundary, it was called No. 1. The monument is of granite 6 feet long, 12 by 12 inches at the base and 6 by 6 inches at the top, weight about 850 pounds. The boundary monuments are designated as No. 1, No. 2, etc., the marks on the random line as T 1, T 2, etc., counting from Lake Tahoe. The monument has C cut on the California side, N on the Nevada side, and No. 1 marked on the NW face in black paint.
  65. Abbe, Donald (1979). "1872 California-Nevada State Boundary Marker". National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form. National Park Service. Retrieved June 20, 2018. Between 1855 and 1900, six different surveys of California's eastern boundary were made. None of them agreed as to the location of the boundary or the 120th degree of longitude. Various surveys were conducted in 1855, 1863, 1872, 1889 and 1893. The 1872 Von Schmidt survey is the only one that was clearly marked along its entire length with stone, rock, wood and iron markers. The 1872 survey also was accepted longer than any other survey before its inaccuracy became widely known. It was not until 1893 that the Von Schmidt line was found to be 1,600 to 1,800 feet too far west. However, even after 1893, the Von Schmidt line remained the accepted boundary, and is still used more today than the more accurate 1893 version. Oddly enough, both the 1872 and 1893 lines have been recognized and are used by both California and Nevada.
  66. Brean, Henry (April 27, 2009). "Four Corners mistake recalls long border feud between Nevada, California". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
  67. "NGS Data Sheet – Von Schmidts Iron Monument". Survey Marks and Datasheets. NOAA: National Geodetic Survey. The south face has the lettering inscribed – 1872 longitude 120 west of Greenwich A.W. Von Schmidt U.S. astronomer and surveyor
  68. "NGS Data Sheet – Upper Truckee". Survey Marks and Datasheets. NOAA: National Geodetic Survey. It was placed near the old blocks that mark the astronomical station of Van Schmidt.
  69. United States Geological Survey (1982). South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – Nev (JPEG) (Topographic map). 1:24,000. 7.5 Minute Series. Reston, VA: United States Geological Survey. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  70. United States Geological Survey (1891). Markleeville Sheet (JPEG) (Topographic map). 1:125,000. Reston, VA: United States Geological Survey. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  71. United States Geological Survey (1992). South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – Nev (JPEG) (Topographic map). 1:24,000. 7.5 Minute Series. Reston, VA: United States Geological Survey. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  72. "Truckee River Chronology". Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. Archived from the original on August 25, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  73. "33 CFR 2.36(a)(3)(i) - Navigable waters of the United States, navigable waters, and territorial waters". United States. navigable waters of the United States, navigable waters, and territorial waters mean...Internal waters of the United States not subject to tidal influence that:...Are or have been used, or are or have been susceptible for use, by themselves or in connection with other waters, as highways for substantial interstate or foreign commerce, notwithstanding natural or man-made obstructions that require portage...
  74. Kaiser Aetna v. United States, 444 US 164 (Supreme Court of the United States December 4, 1979) ("four tests for determining what constitutes navigable waters: whether the body of water (1) is subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, (2) connects with a continuous interstate waterway, (3) has navigable capacity, and (4) is actually navigable. Using these tests, courts have held that bodies of water much smaller than lakes and rivers also constitute navigable waters. Even shallow streams that are traversable only by canoe have met the test.").
  75. "18 U.S. Code § 7 - Special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States defined". Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  76. "33 CFR 2.38(a) - Waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; waters over which the United States has jurisdiction". United States. Waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and waters over which the United States has jurisdiction mean the following waters...Navigable waters of the United States, as defined in § 2.36(a).
  77. "14 U.S. Code § 2 - Primary duties". United States. The Coast Guard shall—(1) enforce or assist in the enforcement of all applicable Federal laws on, under, and over the high seas and waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States;...(3) administer laws and promulgate and enforce regulations for the promotion of safety of life and property on and under the high seas and waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, covering all matters not specifically delegated by law to some other executive department
  78. "33 CFR 329.4 - General definition". United States. Navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity.
  79. "43 U.S. Code Chapter 29 - SUBMERGED LANDS". Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  80. "Newlands Project". U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. May 11, 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  81. Rancho Viejo v. Tres Amigos Viejos, 100 Cal. App. 4th 550 (Court of Appeals of California July 25, 2002) ("Many activities will give rise to liability both as a trespass and a nuisance, if they result in the violation of a person's right of exclusive possession of land and also constitute an unreasonable and substantial interference with the use and enjoyment of the land. A trespass is an invasion of the interest in the exclusive possession of land, as by entry upon it. A nuisance is an interference with the interest in the private use and enjoyment of the land and does not require interference with the possession of it.").
  82. Cudahy, Claire (April 13, 2018). "High water level damages Lake Tahoe beachfront properties". Swift Communications, Inc. The Record Courier. Archived from the original on December 19, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2018. In the Zephyr Cove neighborhood Marla Bay, beachfront properties have suffered from two years of water levels well above the lake's natural rim, which sits at an elevation of 6,223 feet. ...the U.S. District Court Water required by law to keep the water below the surface elevation of 6,229.1 feet, the federal legal limit ..."I've pleaded with the water master to drop the lake, and he said he can't—he's bound by law," said Smith.
  83. Fogerty v. State of California, 87 Cal.App.3d 225 (Court of Appeals of California November 24, 1986) ("Littoral property owners owned the shorezone of a lake in fee simple to the low watermark of the lake in its current condition; however, their fee simple title in the shorezone was impressed with a public trust, analogous to an easement, acquired by the state pursuant to the doctrine of prescription and held for the benefit of the public for purposes of commerce, navigation, fishing, recreation, and preservation of the land in its natural state. ... The uses of land subject to the public trust over the shorezone of navigable waters are broader than actual uses of the land previously by the public. See Official Reports Annotated Here").
  84. State of California v. Superior Court (Fogerty), 297 Cal.3d 240 (Supreme Court of California March 20, 1981) ("plaintiffs may use the shorezone for any purposes which are not incompatible with the public trust. Landowners who have previously constructed docks, piers and other structures in the shorezone may continue to use these facilities unless the state determines, in accordance with applicable law, that their continued existence is inconsistent with the reasonable needs of the trust. See Official Reports Annotated Here").
  85. "California Constitution Article X Section 4". California Legislative Information. State of California. No individual, partnership, or corporation, claiming or possessing the frontage or tidal lands of ... navigable water in this State, shall be permitted to exclude the right of way to such water whenever it is required for any public purpose, nor to destroy or obstruct the free navigation of such water; and the Legislature shall enact such laws as will give the most liberal construction to this provision, so that access to the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof.
  86. "California Government Code Section 670". California Legislative Information. State of California. The State is the owner of all land below tide water, and below ordinary high-water mark, bordering upon tide water within the State; of all land below the water of a navigable lake or stream; of all property lawfully appropriated by it to its own use; of all property dedicated to the State; and of all property of which there is no other owner.
  87. Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois, 146 US 387 (Supreme Court of the United States 1892).
  88. "Calendar Item 72" (PDF). Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  89. California ex rel. State Lands Com'n v. United States, 457 US 273 (Supreme Court of the United States June 18, 1982) ("Under California law where an accretion is caused by construction of artificial works on water, boundary does not move but becomes fixed at ordinary high-water mark at time artificial influence is introduced.").
  90. Carpenter v. Santa Monica, 63 Cal.App.2d 772 (Court of Appeals of California April 17, 1944) ("Where title is deraigned from the United States, the question as to the extent of the grant is to be governed by federal and not by state law; but where title is deraigned from a federal patent confirming a Mexican grant, the extent of the right gained under the patent is to be determined by state and not by federal law.--The California rule is that in a controversy between the state or its grantees and the upland owner, artificial accretions belong to the state or its grantees as the owner of the tidelands.--that is, by the works of man, such as wharves, groins, piers, etc., and by the dumping of material into the ocean--belong to the state or its grantees, and do not belong to the upland owner.").
  91. "Cal. Civ. Code § 1007—Title by prescription; adverse possession; exemption of public property". no possession by any person, firm or corporation no matter how long continued of any land, water, water right, easement, or other property whatsoever dedicated to a public use by a public utility, or dedicated to or owned by the state or any public entity, shall ever ripen into any title, interest or right against the owner thereof.
  92. "Lake Tahoe Beach Weddings". see satellite images
  93. "Cal.Civ.Code § 801(a)". State of California. The following land burdens, or servitudes upon land, may be attached to other land as incidents or appurtenances, and are then called easements: The right-of-way
  94. "Cal.Code.Civ.Proc. § 321". State of California. the person establishing a legal title to the property is presumed to have been possessed thereof within the time required by law, and the occupation of the property by any other person is deemed to have been under and in subordination to the legal title, unless it appear that the property has been held and possessed adversely to such legal title, for five years before the commencement of the action.
  95. "Cal.Code.Civ.Proc. § 318". State of California. No action for the recovery of real property, or for the recovery of the possession thereof, can be maintained, unless it appear that the plaintiff, his ancestor, predecessor, or grantor, was seized or possessed of the property in question, within five years before the commencement of the action.
  96. "Cal.Civ.Code § 806". State of California. The extent of a servitude is determined by the terms of the grant, or the nature of the enjoyment by which it was acquired.
  97. Main Street Plaza v. Cartwright & Main, 194 Cal.App.4th 1044, 1054 (Court of Appeals of California 2011) ("To establish a prescriptive easement, a claimant must prove use of the property, for the statutory period of five years, which has been: (1) open and notorious; (2) continuous and uninterrupted; (3) hostile to the true owner; and (4) under a claim of right.").
  98. "US CONST ART X" (PDF). Commandeering Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from forcing states to pass or not pass certain legislation, or to enforce federal law.
  99. Robinson, Mark (March 8, 2014). "Fact Checker: Are all Tahoe beaches public?". Reno Gazette Journal. Retrieved July 5, 2018. The land above the high-water mark is private property with no public access in California and Nevada
  100. "USGS 10337000 LAKE TAHOE A TAHOE CITY CA". USGS Water Resources. U.S. Geological Survey. Maximum legal limit...6,229.1; Natural rim of lake...6,223; Gage Datum...6,220
  101. Hoffman, Ryan (February 28, 2019). "Pier review: Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board overturns decision on Zephyr Cove pier". Tahoe Daily Tribune. Pohl also argued the structure failed to extend beyond the high-water mark, as required under TRPA's definition of a pier. He pointed to "photographic evidence" showing that even at full capacity, Tahoe's waters did not extend underneath the structure....Topographical surveys that are part of the property's record show the structure stretches beyond the high-water mark.
  102. "U.S. Constitution, Article VI". United States of America. This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
  103. "28 U.S. Code § 1331. Federal question". United States. The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.
  104. "42 U.S. Code § 1983 - Civil action for deprivation of rights". United States. Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.
  105. "18 U.S. Code § 242 - Deprivation of rights under color of law". United States. Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both;...
  106. "18 U.S. Code § 1001 - Statements or entries generally". United States. whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years...
  107. "18 U.S. Code § 1519 - Obstruction of Justice". United States. Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.
  108. Coble, Christopher (November 1, 2017). "Utah Nurse Gets $500,000 for False Arrest". Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  109. Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 United States Reports 385, 391 (Supreme Court of the United States January 4, 1926) ("That the terms of a penal statute creating a new offense must be sufficiently explicit to inform those who are subject to it what conduct on their part will render them liable to its penalties is a well recognized requirement, consonant alike with ordinary notions of fair play and the settled rules of law, and a statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application violates the first essential of due process of law.").
  110. "Tahoe Regional Planning Agency — TRPA|A Voice for Lake Tahoe". Retrieved February 15, 2022.
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Further reading

  • Becker, Andrew. "The naming of Tahoe's mountains". Archived from the original on April 2, 2010. Retrieved November 1, 2008.
  • Byron, Earl R.; Charles R. Goldman (January 1, 1989). "Land-Use and Water Quality in Tributary Streams of Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada". Journal of Environmental Quality. 18 (1): 84–88. doi:10.2134/jeq1989.00472425001800010015x.
  • Chang, C. C. Y.; J. S. Kuwabara; S. P. Pasilis (1992). "Phosphate and iron limitation of phytoplankton biomass in Lake Tahoe". Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 49 (6): 1206–15. doi:10.1139/f92-136.
  • Coats, R. N.; Goldman, C. R. (2001). "Patterns of nitrogen transport in streams of the Lake Tahoe basin, California-Nevada". Water Resour. Res. 37 (2): 405–15. Bibcode:2001WRR....37..405C. doi:10.1029/2000wr900219. S2CID 43088599.
  • Coats, R. N., J. Perez-Losada, G. Schladow, R. Richards and C. R. Goldman. 2006. The Warming of Lake Tahoe. Climatic Change (In Press).
  • Crippen, J. R., and B. R. Pavelka. 1970. The Lake Tahoe basin, California-Nevada U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1972.
  • Gardner, James V.; Larry A. Mayer; John Hughes-Clarke (January 16, 2003). "The bathymetry of Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada". Open-File Report 98-509. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved November 1, 2008.
  • Goldman, C. R.; Jassby, A.; Powell, T. (1989). "Interannual fluctuations in primary production: meteorological forcing at two subalpine lakes". Limnol. Oceanogr. 34 (2): 310–23. Bibcode:1989LimOc..34..310G. doi:10.4319/lo.1989.34.2.0310. S2CID 1812168.
  • Goldman, C. R.; Jassby, A. D.; Hackley, S. H. (1993). "Decadal, interannual, and seasonal variability in enrichment bioassays at Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada, USA". Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 50 (7): 1489–96. doi:10.1139/f93-170.
  • Hatch, L. K.; Reuter, J. E.; Goldman, C. R. (2001). "Stream phosphorus transport in the Lake Tahoe Basin, 1989–1996". Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 69 (1): 63–83. doi:10.1023/a:1010752628576. PMID 11393545. S2CID 22155734.
  • Jensen, Carol A.; North Lake Tahoe Historical Society (2012). Lake Tahoe's West Shore. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738588919.
  • Jassby, A. D.; Goldman, C. R.; Powell, T. M. (1992). "Trend, seasonality, cycle, and irregular fluctuations in primary productivity at Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada, USA". Hydrobiologia. 246 (3): 195–203. doi:10.1007/bf00005697. S2CID 43204458.
  • Jassby, A. D.; Reuter, J. E.; Axler, R. P.; Goldman, C. R.; Hackley, S. H. (1994). "Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and phosphorus in the annual nutrient load of Lake Tahoe (California-Nevada)". Water Resour. Res. 30 (7): 2207–16. Bibcode:1994WRR....30.2207J. doi:10.1029/94wr00754.
  • Jassby, A. D.; Goldman, C. R.; Reuter, J. E. (1995). "Long-term change in Lake Tahoe (California-Nevada, U.S.A.) and its relation to atmospheric deposition of algal nutrients". Arch. Hydrobiol. 135: 1–21. doi:10.1127/archiv-hydrobiol/135/1995/1.
  • Jassby, A. D.; Goldman, C. R.; Reuter, J. E.; Richards, R. C. (1999). "Origins and scale dependence of temporal variability in the transparency of Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada". Limnol. Oceanogr. 44 (2): 282–94. Bibcode:1999LimOc..44..282J. doi:10.4319/lo.1999.44.2.0282. S2CID 18427777.
  • Jassby, A.; Reuter, J.; Goldman, C. R. (2003). "Determining long-term water -quality change in the presence of climate variability: Lake Tahoe (U.S.A.)". Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 60 (12): 1452–61. doi:10.1139/f03-127.
  • Leonard, R. L.; Kaplan, L. A.; Elder, J. F.; Coats, R. N.; Goldman, C. R. (1979). "Nutrient Transport in Surface Runoff from a Subalpine Watershed, Lake Tahoe Basin, California". Ecological Monographs. 49 (3): 281–310. doi:10.2307/1942486. JSTOR 1942486.
  • Nagy, M., 2003. Lake Tahoe Basin Framework Study Groundwater Evaluation Lake Tahoe Basin, California and Nevada. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento, CA.
  • Naslas, G. D.; Miller, W. W.; Blank, R. R.; Gifford, G. F. (1994). "Sediment, nitrate, and ammonium in surface runoff from two Tahoe basin soil types". Water Resour. Bull. 30 (3): 409–17. Bibcode:1994JAWRA..30..409N. doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.1994.tb03300.x.
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