The History of Lake Tahoe
Before it was a popular tourist attraction to visitors in the states of Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe was an alpine lake filled with history.
Lake Tahoe was the heart of the Washoe Indian territory. It was the tribes’ source of food, water, medicinal plants, and even tools. On February 14, 1844, Lt. John C. Frémont discovered the lake during his discovery to the west. Since its discovery, the lake was used to cross the mountains that surrounded it. Even so, its harsh weather kept its visitors in small numbers. Most people who wanted to cross the lake and the mountains surrounding it needed a guide.
Naming the lake sparked controversy over decades. In 1853, it was named as Lake Bigler by the surveyor general of California, William Eddy. This naming was meant to honor California’s third Governor, John Bigler. During the Civil War, Union advocates objected to the name. This was after Governor John Bigler became a Confederate sympathizer. Lt. John C. Frémont insisted on naming the lake “Lake Bonpland” in honor of the French botanist, Aimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland. But this naming was barely used.
Over the years, the lake’s name became an argument. Some maps used Lake Bigler while others referred to the lake as “Mountain Lake”, “Frémont’s Lake” and “Maheon Lake.” in 1862, the United States Department of the Interior suggested the name Tahoe. The name Tahoe was derived from the Washoe word, “dá’aw”, which meant “the lake”. The legislation officially named the lake “Lake Bigler” in 1870, but the public chose to refer to it as “Lake Tahoe.” Finally, in 1945, the lake was officially named Lake Tahoe.
When the Comstock Lode was discovered in Virginia city. With the city just 15 miles to the east of the lake, miners interested in the silver set their eyes on the nearby Lake Tahoe and its mountains. In 1861, the mining’s demand for lumber and fuel directed Sam Clemens to the east shore of the lake. There, he found trees that would meet the mining’s demands. This led to the first settlements within the area of Lake Tahoe, other than native settlers from the Washoe tribes. Unfortunately, this resulted in a massive forest fire by Clemens’ camp. The fire drove the lumberers out of the lake.
Even so, Tahoe city was founded in 1864. The city became a recreational spot for the miners from the Comstock Lode. This was the beginning of Lake Tahoe’s reputation for being a recreational destination. Vacation homes were built around the lake during the early 20th century. The popularity of gambling casinos in Nevada, which lies at the east side of Lake Tahoe, and the success of the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, which is located less than 10 miles from the lake, its development boomed.
Today, Lake Tahoe is a known destination spot for those visiting California and Nevada, the states that border the lake. Its vast waters and mountain ranges make it a popular choice for those interested in watersports, hiking, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, and many other activities.
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