The History of Lake Tahoe

21st December, 2018

Lake Tahoe is easily one of the most beautiful places on the planet with its crisp, fresh air, and azure waters so clear and pure, you can easily see a dinner plate 70 feet down. Lake Tahoe has an interesting story from how it was formed to the notorious people who have visited the area. Let’s discover how Lake Tahoe as we know it now, came to be.

Ice Age Birth

Lake Tahoe formed two million years ago and is believed to have volcanic origins. Over time the melting glaciers shaped the lake’s only island located in the middle of Emerald Bay, known as Fannette’s Island. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in Northern America and the second deepest in the United States. The lake contains so much water that it could easily flood the entire state of California in over one-foot of water if it were emptied. Outside of the indigenous tribes of the area, Lake Tahoe was first seen by explorer John C. Fremont in 1844, prior to the Nevada silver mining rush of the 1860s, which began to attract more people to the area.Emerald Bay Early Days Tahoe

Tahoe Tessie

Most of us have heard of the Loch Ness Monster that is known to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. But, did you know Lake Tahoe has its own mythical creature called Tahoe Tessie? Dating back to the indigenous Washoe and Paiute Native American tribes of the Tahoe Basin, there has been folklore of a creature that resides in an underwater tunnel under Cave Rock. The stories say the creature navigates in the deepest parts of the lakes and in the underground river and cave systems. Theories on Tahoe Tessie is that it could be a descendant of the long-extinct dinosaurs. But, much like the Loch Ness Monster, there is no proof or evidence of Tahoe Tessie, just the stuffed animals you can buy in Tahoe gift shops.

Tahoe Tessie

Tahoe’s Mafia Connection

Lake Tahoe has a connection to the mafia from Hollywood movies to real life mobsters who had ties to the early day casinos. In one of the most famous films of all time, The Godfather II, opening scenes show the Homewood estate located on the West shore and a pivotal scene in the film on Lake Tahoe. The 2006 crime drama, Smoking Aces, was filmed at multiple locations around South Lake Tahoe, and currently in production is the sequel to Top Gun, which is filming scenes at the South Lake Tahoe airport.

Godfather 2 Tahoe House

The Lake Tahoe mafia ties were real the early days of the casinos popping up around the lake. There were mobster influence and financial backing to some of the early casinos, but they did not last long. The most well-known occasions of these worlds colliding occurred when Frank Sinatra bought the Cal-Neva Lodge in 1960. It has been well documented that real life “Godfather” of the Chicago mafia, Sam Gianaca, would visit the property often and was a close friend of Frank Sinatra. The rest of the rat pack would often perform and stay at the resort calling it their second home. Other famous guests that would attend included John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Joe DiMaggio. The resort has a secret tunnel system allowing celebrities to escape to their beach cottages from the main casino undetected making it the perfect playground for the rich and famous to vacation.

Frank Sinatra Marilyn Monroe

Lake Tahoe has a rich history that offers something for everyone. You can easily spend your days learning about the geology of Lake Tahoe, listening to the local tales of Tahoe Tessie, or looking for the spot they filmed The Godfather II. Plan your trip today and start exploring all of Lake Tahoe’s colorful history in person.  Book online or contact our in-house reservation team at 1.800.877.1466.