Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - California - High Sierra - Nevada - Renoe-Tahoe Territory -

Tucked into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and straddling the California-Nevada state line, Lake Tahoe is one of the most famous lakes in the United States. It’s the second deepest lake in the country (only Crater Lake in Oregon is deeper), and was home to the area’s 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics. Now a major recreational attraction, this 122,000-acre lake inspires with its beauty and entertains with its aquatic diversity.

Although Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake formed about two million years ago, it is also a multi-purpose reservoir for hydropower generation, water storage for agriculture, fish and wildlife protection, drought protection, and recreational opportunities. Lake Tahoe’s only outflow is the Truckee River, and this outflow has been regulated by a dam at Tahoe City, California since 1874. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built a modern concrete dam in 1913, and a federal district court ruling awarded the Bureau control of the dam from the Truckee River General Electric Company in 1915. The U.S. District Court Water Master manages Lake Tahoe’s water levels at an elevation around 6,225 feet above sea level. The Water Master is required to release water from Lake Tahoe when elevations reach 6,229 feet. The lowest lake level on record was 6,220 feet, three feet below the lake’s natural rim.

An area truly rich in natural beauty and outside diversions, there is no challenge to which Lake Tahoe won’t rise. Fantastic restaurants, breathtaking views, crackling fires in the hearth, world class snow skiing, adrenaline-pumping boating, peaceful stargazing, exciting fishing, and casino nightlife are just a few of the activities within your reach at this California-Nevada lake. Lake Tahoe’s North Shore and South Shore are divided between the states, though two-thirds of its total area belongs to California. When visiting Tahoe for the first time, it’s usually best to choose an area to concentrate on, as the lake’s size makes it difficult to explore all in one trip. In fact, Lake Tahoe is so large that if you were to pour it out into a California-sized basin, the entire state would be covered in 14 inches of water!

More than 80% of the Lake Tahoe Basin is under public ownership through the U.S. Forest Service and the State Parks of California and Nevada, providing an incredible array of outdoor activities. If your favorite weather is warm and sunny, then summer at Lake Tahoe is the season for you with mountain biking, swimming, golfing, boating, hiking, and camping. Start your lake vacation by getting a lay of the land. Hundreds of miles of trails surround the lake, providing hikers and bikers of all skill sets with nature walks and rides, steep and challenging climbs, and high-altitude mountain paths that seem to lead to heaven, with views to match! As you meander along your chosen trail, you may glimpse sparkling lakes in the distance, rushing waterfalls so close that you can feel their spray, and the soaring peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that surround you. No matter your choice, you are guaranteed absolutely spectacular scenery and many photo ops.

Make sure to spend time at D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Parks with six miles of spectacular Lake Tahoe shoreline and panoramic views. Fannette Island, located in lovely Emerald Bay, is the only island on Lake Tahoe. In 1969, the bay was designated a National Natural Landmark and in 1994, became an underwater state park. Beautiful hikes within the park lead to Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm Castle, a 38-room mansion that is one of the best examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere. Sand Harbor State Park on the Nevada side of the lake features long sandy beaches, rocky coves, a scuba diving cove, and panoramic views.

There are few things that work up a sweat more than hiking or biking a challenging trail, and there are still fewer things that refresh a tired naturist like a dip in Lake Tahoe. With sandy beaches lining its shores, the lake is the perfect place to take a dip in some of the bluest water you’ve ever seen, followed up by a relaxing, rejuvenating nap in the sun. In the spirit of offering something for every taste, Lake Tahoe has diverse beach offerings: Active vacationers will appreciate those with lakeside walking trails, families will enjoy those with picnic areas and live music, and romance-seeking couples will gravitate towards hike-in, secluded wedges of waterfront. Whatever your beach need, Tahoe delivers.

After you’ve tried the water out with a swim, it’s time to get a bit more involved and take a boat ride. Bring your own or rent from a local marina, because seeing Lake Tahoe from the inside out is something every visitor must do. If you prefer a more low-key ride, grab a kayak or canoe and head out to explore the shoreline and watch for birds. If you care to test your sailing skills, you’ll find yourself in good company with the colorful sailboats that dot the lake’s surface on a warm summer day. And if you want a bit of a thrill, take a powerboat out for a spin, pull a water skier behind you, or go for a ride on a zippy jet ski. And if you love the idea of scenic boating infused with an adrenaline rush, give parasailing a shot.

Of course, Lake Tahoe’s diverse offerings don’t stop at hiking, biking, swimming, sailing, waterskiing, parasailing, and boating. Indeed, whatever it is that you want to do, you’ll be sure to find it at the lake. Anglers rave about Lake Tahoe’s eight varieties of trout (brook trout, brown trout, camloop trout, cutthroat trout, German trout, golden trout, lake trout/mackinaw, paiute trout, and rainbow trout), catfish, kokanee salmon, largemouth bass, perch, smallmouth bass, and mountain whitefish. Golfers rave about the 20+ courses, some championship, within an hour of the lakefront. Spa lovers are relaxed and pampered by the time they step out of any of Lake Tahoe’s first class health spas. After just a few days here, you’ll already know that anything you crave is right at your fingertips.

As summer fades to winter, the incredible recreational options don’t diminish, only change. Instead of sunning yourself on a beach or refreshing yourself in cool, blue waters, you’ll find yourself racing down a mountaintop or sipping a mug of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. Lake Tahoe is a premier destination for winter vacation fun, and it’s easy to see why. With over 600 inches of snow each year, 12 world class alpine ski resorts, and some of the most spectacular snow-covered views in the world, it’s time you experience a wintry white Lake Tahoe. Major ski resorts include Heavenly Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Diamond Peak, Northstar at Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Boreal Mountain Resort, Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, Donner Ski Ranch, Homewood Ski Resort, and Mount Rose Ski Resort.

Lake Tahoe’s top-class slopes are skied and boarded by many professionals. You don’t need to be a pro to know how great the Tahoe mountains are, though, as any ski-lover will soon find out. The twelve nationally-known ski resorts will test your skills, your courage, and your endurance. Perhaps best of all, a Ski Tahoe North Interchangeable Lift Ticket gives you access to seven of these fantastic resorts.

If speed and adrenaline aren’t your cup of tea, the Tahoe area offers excellent cross-country skiing, with many miles of trails. Glide along the powdery white snow, and drink in the snow capped mountains, icicles dripping from tree branches, and intense scenery that will grace your view. And if you prefer a bit of speed to you country wanderings, grab a sled or a snowmobile and infuse excitement into your winter fun.

Lake Tahoe is a four season wonderland, complete with boats, ski lifts, picnics, and delicious hot cocoa. All it needs to be complete is you!

Things to do at Lake Tahoe

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Parasailing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Lake Tahoe

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Catfish
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Golden Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Lake Trout
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Lake Tahoe Photo Gallery

Lake Tahoe Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. District Court Water Master

Surface Area: 122,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 75 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,225 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 6,220 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 6,229 feet

Average Depth: 989 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,645 feet

Water Volume: 122,160,280 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 650 years

Drainage Area: 325 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

At LakeLubbers.com, we strive to keep our information as accurate and up-to-date as possible, but if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you!
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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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