Lake Tahoe Area Facts


From the time of its discovery by Captain John Charles Fremont and Charles Preuss on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 1844, this internationally famous icon of the west has always attracted attention and with good reason. Once just a stop along the way for weary travelers seeking fame and fortune, Lake Tahoe and its surrounding High Sierra continues as the Mecca of activity and growth.


Lake Tahoe is a Washoe Indian word generally believed to mean "Big Water" or "Big Blue". Many have interpreted the words to mean many things and no exact definition has ever been agreed upon: Mark Twain, while visiting Lake Tahoe in his earlier days, was said to have defined Tahoe as "Grasshopper Soup"; still others believe it "Strong Water" or "Whiskey" are better definitions!

However it may be interpreted, 'Tahoe' has long held a mystical connotation - a mystery as deep as the awe-inspiring beauty of the Lake.


Physical Environment

Lake Tahoe is located on the California/Nevada border, 198 miles northeast of San Francisco, 98 miles east of Sacramento and 58 miles southwest of Reno, Nevada. The Lake Tahoe Basin includes 482 square miles and runs along the crest of the Sierra Nevada and the Carson Range.


Lake Environment

The water of Lake Tahoe is among the purest in the world at 99.7% pure. A white dinner plate can be seen 120 feet below the surface with little trouble. The Lake will not freeze due to the constant movement of water from the exchange of water temperatures. Occasionally ice will form along the shoreline in small-protected inlets. During the summer months the upper 12 feet can warm to 68 degrees F. At depths of 700 feet the temperature remains a constant 39 degrees F.



The Lake Tahoe Basin enjoys 84% sunshine (approximately 300 days per year.) Lake Tahoe receives an average of 215.4 inches of snowfall (just under 18 feet.) Upper elevations may have between 300 and 500 inches per year. Winds are generally mild, 10-15 mph, out of the west and northwest. During storm periods they can average 25-35 mph. Winter means heavy jackets, warm boots and clothing, while summer days can be spent in shorts and t-shirts; a sweater or jacket is usally in the evenings.



The Tahoe Basin is at an elevation of 6,240 feet (1,901 meters) above mean-sea level. On the west side of the Lake, the Sierra rises from elevations of 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) to 11,000 feet (3,352 meters) and to the east, mountains reach 6,000 feet (1,828 meters) to 7,000 feet (2,133 meters).