The Formation of Lake Tahoe

2017-11-22 07:42:15


Lake Tahoe is known as one of the most breathtaking lakes in the United States, and its magnificence has been admired for many years. Known as the second deepest lake in the United States (and the 10th deepest in the world) it reaches depths of 1,645 feet. The crystal blue water, majestic mountains, and stunning alpine surroundings makes Lake Tahoe a highlight of the Sierra Nevada Mountains for many travelers. In fact, it was disputed for three years whether it should be designated as a national park. Over the years, development was limited due to the surrounding jagged terrain and thus the main recreational activities remain cross-country skiing, hiking, camping, fishing, etc. The increased activity during the last half century has caused a decrease in the lake’s overall clarity. With current clarity approximately 70 feet deep, organizations such as the U.S. Geological Survey and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) recognize the threat and have been monitoring sediment and nutrient flow in the basin for years.
Lake Tahoe Basin was formed some 2.5 million years ago by geological block faulting. A geologic block fault is a fracture in the Earth's crust causing blocks of land to move up or down. Uplifted blocks created the Carson Range on the east and the Sierra Nevada on the west. The basin dropped and the adjacent mountains lifted, causing a stark contrast. The lowest parts of the basin filled with glacial melt, snow, and rain. According to the USGS, some of the highest peaks of the Lake Tahoe Basin that formed during this process were Freel Peak at 10,891 feet (3,320 m), Monument Peak at 10,067 feet (3,068 m, the present Heavenly Valley Ski Area), Pyramid Peak at 9,983 feet (3,043 m, in the Desolation Wilderness), and Mt. Tallac at 9,735 feet (2,967 m). The Great Ice Age, beginning around 1 million years ago, helped to shape the modern day Lake with glacial scoring and fluctuating water levels.
Washoe Tribe occupied the Lake Tahoe region for many years. The Native Americans were still hunting and fishing in the area when General John Fremont stumbled across the ancient basin in 1844 during his exploration out West. The public has always been captivated with this awe-inspiring location and it will continue to astound individuals of all ages for many generations to come.
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Facts About Lake Tahoe
Features Metric unit English unit
Maximum depth (second deepest in the U.S.) 501 m 1,645 ft
Average depth 305 m 1,000 ft
Maximum diameter (north-south) 35 km 22 mi
Minimum diameter (east-west) 19 km 12 mi
Surface area 495 km2 191 mi2
Average surface elevation (above sea level) 1,897 m 6,225 ft
Highest peak (Freel Peak) 3,320 m 10,891 ft
** Graph Provided by USGS Website** Please Note: The depth of Lake Tahoe is constantly changing as the lake’s levels fluctuate.
Written By: Emily Hauck