Lake Tahoe: Blue Gem of the Sierra Nevada

June 28, 2021



Photographer: Ray Boren

Summary Author: Ray Boren

Straddling a state line shared by Nevada and California in the western United States, beautiful Lake Tahoe is set like a gargantuan blue gem in a high basin between the Sierra Nevada crest on the west and the Sierras’ Carson Range spur on the east. In the first photograph here, taken on June 7, 2021, the panoramic perspective to the south and southwest is from a high viewpoint above the north shore’s Incline Village, along Nevada’s Mount Rose Highway (State Route 431). A second photo, taken the same day, presents a shoreline view from Lake Tahoe’s north-shore resort town of Kings Beach, California.

Tahoe’s name is an anglicization of a Native American Washoe tribal term describing “The Lake,” “Big Water,” or “Water in a High Place” — all quite apt. Tahoe is the largest fresh-water alpine lake in North America, covering 122,616 acres (49,621 hectares). With a depth of 1,645 feet (501 m), it is also the second-deepest in the United States (behind Oregon’s lovely Crater Lake). It is 22 miles (35 km) long, north to south, and 12 miles (19 km) at its widest, with 72 miles (116 km) of shoreline.

Basin-and-range faulting is credited with forming a series of west-tilted blocks and east-dipping faults that produced the north/south trending basin about 2 million years ago. Elevations at Tahoe range from 6,225 feet (1897 m) at lake level to 10,891 feet (3320 m) atop Freel Peak. The spectacular and pleasing natural beauty of today’s Lake Tahoe basin is the result of manifold geological processes over millions of years, the Geologic Survey notes, including marine deposition, granitic intrusion, tectonic uplift, volcanic eruptions, and ice-age glacial scouring and other forms of erosion.

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