Lake Tahoe is an impressively large freshwater lake that plunges to depths of 501 meters, making it the second-deepest lake in the states after Oregon’s Crater Lake. With a surface area of 495 km2, Lake Tahoe is found in both Nevada and California and features mountains reaching as high as 3,320 meters above sea level (Freel Peak). Formed during the last ice age, the lake has an interesting geological and cultural history and plays an important role in the US tourism industry thanks to its plethora of ski resorts, casinos, trails and water sports. Here are 5 unusual facts you probably didn’t know about Lake Tahoe.
#1 There are 7,052 slot machines in Lake Tahoe’s casinos.
The Nevada side of Lake Tahoe (found on the South Shore and North Shore) has benefited from legalized gambling since 1931. Tahoe’s casinos offer a dramatic alternative setting to the glitz and excess of nearby resorts like Las Vegas and Reno. Some of the most well-established and renowned of Tahoe’s casinos include the CalNeva Resort (short for ‘California’ and ‘Nevada’), Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.
#2 While camping, Mark Twain accidentally started a forest fire on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, wrote about his experiences at Lake Tahoe in his autobiographical memoir ‘Roughing It’, published in 1872. Detailing his adventures traveling through the Wild West between 1861 and 1867, Twain recounts the moment when, after lighting a campfire to cook some bacon, he inadvertently started a raging forest fire: “I took the loaf of bread, some slices of bacon, and the coffee-pot, ashore, set them down by a tree, lit a fire, and went back to the boat to get the frying-pan. While I was at this, I heard a shout from Johnny, and looking up I saw that my fire was galloping all over the premises! Johnny was on the other side of it. He had to run through the flames to get to the lake shore, and then we stood helpless and watched the devastation.” (Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter 23).
#3 Water in Lake Tahoe is 99.994% pure. That’s purer than tap water in your house.
One of the purest large lakes in the US, Lake Tahoe boasts 99.994% purity levels (distilled water is only slightly purer at 99.998%). Lake Tahoe contains around 60 ppm (parts per million) of dissolved matter, whereas standard tap water has an FDA recommended limit of 500ppm.
#4 Lake Tahoe is two-thirds in California, and one-third in Nevada.
Bound by Sierra Nevada and the Carson Range, Lake Tahoe was formed around 2.5 million years ago, long before the US or its states were established. For many hundreds of years, Lake Tahoe was a settlement for the Washoe Tribe of Native Americans. By 1844, General John C. Fremont had ‘discovered’ the lake while exploring the West. When the state of California was formed in 1850, and subsequently Nevada was granted statehood in 1864, Lake Tahoe formed part of the state boundaries. Today, both states work together to protect and manage the lake and its surrounding landscape.
#5 According to legends, Lake Tahoe is home to “Tahoe Tessie”, a mysterious lake-dwelling creature.
America’s very own Loch Ness Monster, Tahoe Tessie, is alleged to reside in the depths of Lake Tahoe. The Washoe Native Americans told stories of Tessie in the 19th century and in recent years there have been a number of reported sightings. The exact size and features of Tessie remain a mystery but she is thought to resemble a large serpent with smooth skin. Fossils of several dinosaurs have been found at Lake Tahoe, leading some to speculate that Tessie could be an ancestor. Other theories place Tessie as a sturgeon (large fish) or a type of freshwater eel.