In Conservative Company

Lake Tahoe

Written by John Hampton.

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful and spectacular destinations in the United States. It is located about 20 miles west of Carson City, on the Nevada/California border. The majority of the lake lies on the California side. The surface of the lake is about 6225 feet above sea level. That makes Lake Tahoe the highest alpine lake in the United States. At a depth of 1645 feet, it is second only to Crater Lake in Oregon, which is 1930 feet deep. Lake Tahoe was formed by a process of faulting of the Earth's crust, volcanism and glaciation.

Lake Tahoe is approximately 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. The surface area of the lake covers 191 square miles and there are 72 miles of shoreline. The lake is fed by as many as 63 streams and rivers; however there is only one outlet for the water – the Truckee River. After flowing out of Tahoe, the water flows into nearby Pyramid Lake. Unlike most bodies of water in the U.S., water from Lake Tahoe never reaches the ocean.

Having skied in the lake many times, I can say that the water is very cold, even in the summer. The upper 12 feet of water warms up to about 65 degrees during the summer. That may not sound very cold, but with the temperature of an average hot tub being about 102 degrees, 65 degrees is very cold. At around the 700 foot level, the water temperature is a constant 39 degrees. Lake Tahoe never freezes due to the constant mass movement of water from the bottom to the surface.

The water is 99.9% pure. This causes an amazing degree of clarity. Objects at a depth of 75 feet can easily be seen from the surface. The clarity is explained by the fact that about 40% of the rainfall in the Tahoe Basin falls directly on the lake. The remainder of the rain drains through the marshes and meadows surrounding the lake. The marshes and meadows act as a filtering system that produces very clean and clear water.

Lake Tahoe contains approximately 39 trillion gallons of water. That is enough to cover the state of California with 14 inches of water. If the lake were emptied, it would take hundreds of years to refill. And the amount of water that evaporates from the surface of Tahoe every year would be enough to meet the needs of the city of Los Angeles for 5 years.

Today Lake Tahoe is famous for its myriad of winter weather sports as well as its summer activities. Tourists come from far and wide to admire its beauty. Over the years much effort has been made to ensure the care and protection of what nature has created. The lake, along with the snow covered mountains and forests provide some of the most incredible vistas available in America. During the summer, the temperatures are mild and the smell of pine trees fills the air. It is a wonderful place to spend some time.

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