With glimmering waters, looming mountains, and densely packed pine forests, Lake Tahoe is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking places in the Golden State—its beauty and magic captivate everyone in a heartbeat. Home to the largest alpine lake in North America, the region has long been a top getaway destination for locals and tourists alike, so it’s no surprise that many families return to Tahoe and the surrounding towns every year for vacation.
While you’re living your best life in Tahoe, you may as well read about Lake Tahoe fun facts that’ll make your stay even more entertaining. Between enjoying winter sports and hiking scenic trails, check out these interesting facts about Lake Tahoe—they’re bound to blow your mind.
Interesting Facts About Lake Tahoe
1. Lake Tahoe is the deepest lake in California, the second deepest in the U.S.—secondary to Crater Lake—and the 16th deepest in the world. With a depth of 1,645 feet, Lake Tahoe is deep enough to cover the Wilshire Grand Center, Salesforce Tower, Transamerica Pyramid, and Empire State Building.
2. A fun fact about Lake Tahoe is that the lake itself is situated in two places, just like a tale of two cities—Californians share the alpine lake with their neighbor state (’cause you know, sharing is caring). Two-thirds of the lake is in the Golden State, while one-third is in Nevada.
3. As a major tourist attraction in both California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe’s reputation and economy are driven by snow and ski resorts. Here, you’ll find the top Golden State ski resorts with panoramic views of powdered slopes. Receiving an average of 215.4 inches of snowfall annually, Lake Tahoe is one of the best places to celebrate a white Christmas in the Golden State.
4. 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. If California was a flat surface, Lake Tahoe would cover the surface entirely with 14 inches of water. A bonus Tahoe fun fact: If necessary, U.S. citizens 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.
5. The 1960 Winter Olympics were held in Squaw Valley, which is situated on Lake Tahoe's western shore. In 1955, Squaw Valley was a rather undeveloped resort but transformed into a bonafide destination after the Olympics. The infrastructure and venues for the events were built between 1956 and 1960; the event cost around 80 million dollars.
6. Back in the day, the area around Lake Tahoe was inhabited by the Washoe, a Great Basin Native American tribe. The name “Tahoe” comes from the Washo word “dá’aw,” which translates to “The Lake.”
7. Not only is Lake Tahoe deep, but it’s also very old—it’s estimated that the lake is 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 most beautiful NorCal lake, the woodland developed over the last 10,000 years, perfectly complementing the breathtaking scenery.
8. 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. Other popular activities include horseback riding and rock climbing. Watersport opportunities are endless: You can enjoy parasailing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, paddleboarding, and even yoga on the water here.
9. An interesting fact about Lake Tahoe is that its water is almost as pure as drinking water. The Tahoe Fund says that it’s 99.994 percent pure (commercially distilled water is 99.998 percent pure), making it one of the purest large lakes in the world.
10. Lake Tahoe’s surface area spans 191 square miles along 72 miles of shoreline. 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. Additionally, the main body of the lake does not freeze in the winter. Since the lake holds massive amounts of water, the heat stored within it prevents the lake from reaching freezing temperatures.
11. Another fun fact about Lake Tahoe: 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.
12. 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.
13. Lake Tahoe is 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.
14. 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.
15. Another interesting fact about Lake Tahoe is that A Place in the Sun, the 1951 drama starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, was filmed here. The Ray and Dagmar Dolby home, which was built in 1929, can be seen in multiple scenes.
16. There are many rumors and horror stories of dead bodies in Lake Tahoe. Rumor has it that mobsters from nearby casinos used to dump victims in the lake. Some say that if you go scuba diving and brave the freezing waters, you’ll find countless bodies of people wearing clothes from the mid-20th century. (You might even spot Tahoe Tessie, too.) Many fishermen have come forward saying they’ve seen dead bodies floating on the surface of Lake Tahoe.
17. 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. He was still wearing his wetsuit. Due to the extremely cold temperatures of Lake Tahoe’s waters, Donald’s body was well preserved.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. Our final Lake Tahoe fun fact: There are 182 ski trails in the 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.
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