South Lake Tahoe Community Information

With more than 300 days of sunshine and a wide array of accommodations, shopping, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, museums, art galleries and recreational opportunities, South Lake Tahoe provides the best of all worlds.

The South Shore boasts three outstanding ski resorts, Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe, several fine cross-country ski areas -- including Camp Richardson where skiers tread along the shore of Lake Tahoe. For snowmobilers, the trail from the crest of Highway 50 at Spooner Lake offers brilliant panoramic views.

The area is home to some of the finest mountain hiking trails in the Sierra such as Horseshoe Falls, just over the Western Slope, where the trail takes hikers up to the breathtaking Desolation Wilderness. There is year-round horseback riding on trails that lead to the historic backcountry as well as biking on challenging mountain trails and much more.

The community is served by the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, which is comprised of five elementary schools, one middle school and three high schools. Lake Tahoe Community College sits high in the clouds at an elevation of 6,229 feet in the heart of the city. First opened in 1975, the school supports nearly 3,000 students each quarter and offers certificates and associate degrees in a variety of areas from culinary arts to computer studies.

The Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe is home to five major casinos including Harveys, Harrah's, the Horizon, Caesars and the Lakeside Inn. Each showroom features major entertainment and dining in sky-top restaurants that offer magnificent views and excellent international cuisine.

Covering 22 miles in length and two miles in width with 72 miles of shoreline, Lake Tahoe is the largest, most attractive and pristine alpine lake in North America. The thin clear mountain air allows the lake's pure crystalline water to reflect the blue sky above. Evening sunsets reflect a vibrant red, while during storms the lake appears to be gray-black. Certain areas of Lake Tahoe are so clear that objects can be seen to depths of 75 feet. The deepest point delves down to 1,645 feet, making it the third deepest lake in North America and the tenth deepest in the world.

The Lake is separated by the California/Nevada state line, which runs vertically through the middle of the Lake. South Lake Tahoe lies in California, while the Tahoe Township of Douglas County, Nevada sits across the state line. Together, they make up the communities of Lake Tahoe and South Shore and have a combined population of about 40,000.

The area has a rich history. The Washoe Indian Tribe was attracted to the area's cool weather, excellent fishing and array of flowers and plants, which they used as medicine or to trade with other tribes. The lake was named "Da ow a ga," meaning Lake of the Sky by the Indians.

The modern era at Lake Tahoe's South Shore began in 1844 when explorer John C. Freemont climbed a ridge trail from the Carson Valley and became the first European to see Lake Tahoe. In 1952 Tahoe was officially named Lake Bigler after John Bigler, California's third Governor, who lead a rescue party into the Sierra to save a group of emigrants. It remained Lake Bigler from 1870 to 1945.

From 1860 to 1890 the basin's natural resources were seriously depleted after the discovery of the Comstock Lode, which used wood for both fuel and to construct mines. Luckily, some of the South Shore forests were left intact simply because it was too difficult to get the timber out of the Basin and on to Virginia City.

By the turn of the century Lake Tahoe became a popular retreat for the wealthy from San Francisco, Sacramento and Virginia City to popular hotels such as the Tallac House, the Tahoe Tavern and the Glenbrook Inn. Tourism became the only industry to flourish.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the mountain roads were paved, bringing in more people and growth for smaller lodges. Lumber tycoon Duane L. Bliss built a narrow-gauge railroad from Truckee near the Donner Pass to shoreside Tahoe City. The rail line suddenly made visits to the lake easier and soon luxury steamships were taking visitors around the lake in comfort.

That era ended when in the midst of the Depression in 1931 engineers blasted two tunnels through Cave Rock near the eastern extremity of the South Shore, completing a road around the lake. This spelled the end of the luxury excursion boats and the narrow-gauge railway.

By the 1950s development began to increase and roads started to be plowed year round. The Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley put Lake Tahoe on the map as the skiing center of the western United States in 1960.

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