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Lake Tahoe was formed 2 to 3 million years ago. As the Sierra Nevada mountains were rising, downward faults dropped to form the lake bed. Later glaciers moved earth to fill in the gaps between the mountain ranges and melting snow filled the lake.

Human history of Lake Tahoe history begins with the Washoe Indians who have no history of migration and speak a distinctly different language that that of their neighbors, the Pauite and Shoshone Indians. To the Washoe indians, "Da ow ga" or "The Lake" was more than a place to hunt and gather during the summer. The lake tahoe area is sacred and holds the key to their spiritual existence.

White men were noticed and ignored as they traveled west to find gold in California, but the Washoe Indians did bring food to the Donner Party. They were appalled to discover a people that were cannibals which led to their continued mistrust of the white man.


In 1848 gold was discovered in California and in 1859 the Comstock silver strike in Virginia City transformed the area for good. From 1848 to 1863 the area was overrun by miners and settlers with a total of $400,000,000 (thats $400 billion) in silver and gold taken from the area. In order to feed and house the rising population, the pinon pine forests were stripped, the lakes over fished and wild game was depleted.

In the early 1900s, Lake Tahoe became a favorite summer retreat for the rich families of San Franciso. The well to do families brought with them all the amenities of the city including cooks, maids, servants and other staff. This required rooms for all and several historical mansions are still available for tours today.

The Cal Neva Lodge was built in 1926 by a wealthy San Franciso businessman, but it is better know for visits by the Kennedy family in the 1950s and the Hollywood "Brat Pack" in the 1960s. Judy Garland was discovered there in 1935 and soon achieved hollywood fame. Frank Sinatra built a helicopter pad on the roof and Marylyn Monroe spent time in her special cabin just before she died. It is a shame this casino has closed as its rich history could be viewed through photos throughout the casino and felt as one walked down the hallways and throughout the lake front rooms.

From 1967 - 2004 the Ponderosa ranch operated in Incline Village, Nevada. Reminents of the ranch and the Bonanza TV show set are available for tours today. Today we can still see the remnants of the past throughout the tahoe basin region, but it is with great hope that we can restore the natural resources of the past and coexist with nature.


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