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Fun Facts About Lake Tahoe, California That Are Fun to Know

Fun Facts About Lake Tahoe, California That Are Fun to Know

Tahoe is one of the most breathtaking places in California, but you may be surprised by some of these Lake Tahoe fun facts.


6 min read

November 22, 2023

Lake Tahoe, with its sparkling waters, stunning mountain backdrops, and lush pine forests, stands out as a jewel in California's landscape. As the site of North America's largest alpine lake, it has consistently been a favorite escape for both residents and travelers, drawing people back to its charming towns season after season. Whether you're hitting the slopes or exploring its numerous scenic paths, adding a few fascinating tidbits about Lake Tahoe to your knowledge base can enhance your experience. Check out these mind-blowing facts about the lake, while you’re living your best life in this picturesque spot.

How Lake Tahoe Got its Name

1. Only 10,000 years late to the party, John C. Fermont discovered Lake Tahoe in 1844 owing to his wanderlust for explorations. First, let’s start the fun facts with the name itself. Surrounded by a good deal of small towns, Lake Tahoe is one of the oldest lakes on the map. Inhabiting the area around the lake, the Washoe — a Great Basin Native American tribe — called it “Da’aw” meaning “the lake.”

How big is Lake Tahoe?

The heat stored in the immense amount of water prevents Lake Tahoe from freezing over.

2. The lake’s surface area spans 191 square miles along 72 miles of shoreline, and is fed by 63 tributaries; almost half of the water entering the lake is either direct rain or snowfall. Only one stream – the Truckee River – flows out of Lake Tahoe and goes past Reno and into Pyramid Lake.

3. If you’re keen to know where Lake Tahoe is, residents of Lake Tahoe California care enough to share the alpine lake with their neighboring state. Situated in two places, just like a tale of two cities — two-thirds of the lake is in the Golden State, while one-third is in Nevada.

4. The main body of the lake does not freeze in the winter. Because it holds an immense amount of water the lake keeps the stored heat within it preventing the lake from reaching freezing temperatures.

How deep is Lake Tahoe?

5. The list of Lake Tahoe fun facts is endless and entertaining. It is the 16th deepest in the world, the second deepest in the U.S.–after Crater Lake, and the deepest one in California. Lake Tahoe’s depth is enough to cover the Wilshire Grand Center, Salesforce Tower, Transamerica Pyramid, and the Empire State Building.

6. When we say that Lake Tahoe is deep, we actually mean it. The freshwater lake holds a significant amount of water — 37 trillion gallons to be exact. A bonus Lake Tahoe fun fact: theoretically, each U.S. citizen can be supplied with 50 gallons of Lake Tahoe water every day for five years. One inch of water in Lake Tahoe amounts to 3.33 billion gallons of water.

Is Lake Tahoe Man-Made?
7. To answer this very common question, here’s another Lake Tahoe fun fact. Not only is Lake Tahoe deep, but it’s also very old — estimations claim the lake to be around 2 million years old. Having aged gracefully, Tahoe is among the 20 oldest lakes in the world. As for the forest landscape surrounding the alpine lake of NorCal, the woodland has developed over the last 10,000 years, perfectly complementing the breathtaking scenery.

Is Lake Tahoe Water Drinkable?

Lake Tahoe is among the largest freshwater lakes across the world.

8. The purity of the water is another Lake Tahoe fun fact. According to the Tahoe Fund, the lake is 99.994 percent pure–roughly compared to commercially distilled water’s figures that estimate 99.998 percent purity. Consequently, this makes Lake Tahoe one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world.

9. There’s a lot of water evaporating from Lake Tahoe. Each day, around 330 million gallons of water evaporate from the lake — this is enough to supply a city as big as Los Angeles with water for five years.

What's at the bottom of Lake Tahoe

10. The history of Lake Tahoe California, encompasses countless legends and horror stories, including those of dead bodies being dumped in the lake. Rumor has it that mobsters from nearby casinos used to dump victims in the lake. Some say that if you go scuba diving in Lake Tahoe depths and brave the freezing waters, you’ll find numerous bodies of people wearing clothes from the mid-20th century, and might even spot Tahoe Tessie. Many fishermen have come forward saying they’ve seen dead bodies floating on the surface of Lake Tahoe.

11. In shallow areas of Lake Tahoe, the water appears turquoise or emerald, while the center may be indigo in color. Under the right conditions, Tahoe perfectly reflects the mighty mountains and the blue sky giving you the picture-perfect scenery on your getaway.

Life in Lake Tahoe

12. You will absolutely love this Lake Tahoe fun fact. Lake Tahoe is alive, literally. The Mackinaw lake trout is the biggest fish ever caught in the lake. Robert Aronsen caught one back on June 21, 1974. The fish weighed a whopping 37 pounds and stretched 44 inches in length. Only six Mackinaw lake trout — which all weighed over 30 pounds — have been caught in the lake.

Lake Tahoe is home to several species of fish including Mackinaw, Brown, and Rainbow trout.

Summer Activities at Lake Tahoe

13. There are so many things to do in Lake Tahoe besides swimming. Hiking in the area is a popular activity — many people trek the Cascade Falls Trail to view Emerald Bay's majestic 200-foot waterfall. If you’re here, you should definitely make time to stop for some popular activities–including horseback riding and rock climbing. Watersport opportunities are endless as well, you can enjoy parasailing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding, and even yoga on the water.

14. Speaking of scuba diving, Donald Christopher Windecker set out for a dive in the lake on July 10, 1994; unfortunately, he drowned in the lake. In 2011, scuba divers found his body — 17 years after his disappearance.

Living a Lake Tahoe

15. Another Lake Tahoe fun fact is that it’s home to multiple 19th- and 20th-century luxury homes with great historical significance. The most eye-catching one is Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion nestled on the shore of Emerald Bay. The Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, designed by Walter Danforth Bliss, is now a California state park.

16. Many celebrities have called Lake Tahoe their home — Sammy Davis Jr., Cher, Metallica vocalist James Hetfield, Liza Minelli, Alanis Morissette, Charles Bronson, and the legendary Frank Sinatra.

17. Around 3 million people visit Lake Tahoe annually. The year-round local population is around 40,000. With visitors, the total population can reach over 300,000 during peak seasons.

18. A Lake Tahoe fun fact worth mentioning is the 1960 Winter Olympics that was held in Squaw Valley–situated on the lake’s western shore. In 1955, Squaw Valley was a rather undeveloped resort but transformed into a major holiday destination after the Olympics. The infrastructure and venues for the events were built between 1956 and 1960 at a cost of around 80 million dollars.

Lake Tahoe essentially put Squaw Vally on the map by hosting the Winter Olympics in 1960.

How To Overwinter at Lake Tahoe?

19. As a major tourist attraction in both California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe’s reputation and economy are driven by snow and ski resorts. Receiving an average of 215.4 inches of snowfall annually, Lake Tahoe is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in the Golden State. You’ll find the top Golden State ski resorts provide panoramic views of picturesque powdered slopes.

There are 182 ski trails in the Golden State area and over 8,800 total acres of ski resorts. The greatest vertical drop in Lake Tahoe is 3,600 feet, and the longest ski run is 5.5 miles long — both are found at Heavenly Ski Resort. 

Movies Featuring Lake Tahoe

21. For the last of many Lake Tahoe fun facts, Fleur de Lac, an estate by Lake Tahoe, was featured in the 1974 epic crime film–The Godfather Part II. Many iconic scenes were filmed at the estate, including the assassination attempt on Michael, Carmela Corleone’s funeral, Fredo’s execution when he’s fishing, and the legendary closing scene of Michael sitting outside all by himself.

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