Part 7 out of 8
furnished each thrice a week--one from Carson City to Glenbrook, the
other from Truckee to Tahoe City. (The narrow gauge railway has also
established a semi-weekly winter schedule.) The mail boat connects
with the incoming sledges and train on Tuesday and Saturday. The
route from Carson City, which crosses the heights of the Carson Range,
affords a superb view of the Lake at sunset. The route from Truckee
traverses the wooded canyon of the Truckee River, when scenically at
The traveler who approaches the Lake by way of Glenbrook and leaves
by way of the canyon of the Truckee will have an experience in winter
travel both unique and replete with beautiful landscapes.
The journey from Truckee to the Lake can also be made on _ski_
in one short day. It is an exhilarating trip, if one travels light.
If one desires to tarry _en route_, he may carry his blankets and
food on his back or haul them on a toboggan, and spend the night at
the half-way station, known as Uncle Billy's.
The best time to visit the Lake is after the heaviest of the winter
snows have fallen. The period of steady and heavy precipitation
occurs in January. After this month is past, there are long periods
of settled weather broken only occasionally by storms, which add to
rather than detract from one's pleasure.
The special equipment requisite for winter trips to Tahoe is slight.
The list includes goggles (preferably amber), German socks and
rubbers, woolen shirt, sweater, short heavy coat, and mittens. For
mountain climbing a pair of Canadian snowshoes should be added to the
equipment; for traveling on the level, a pair of _ski_ can be
rented at Truckee or the Lake. If one desires to camp instead of
stopping at the resorts around the Lake, a tent and waterproof
sleeping bag should be procured.
The cost of transportation in winter is scarcely more than in summer.
The sledge trip from either Truckee or Carson City to the Lake is
$2.50, an amount only $1.00 in excess of the regular fare by rail.
Board will cost no more than in summer.
Closely associated with Lake Tahoe as a center for winter sports is
Truckee, the natural point of departure for the Lake. Here a winter
carnival is held annually for the entertainment of outsiders. Among
the chief sports are _ski-racing_ and jumping and tobogganing.
The toboggan course is two thousand feet long and has a fall of
one-hundred fifty feet. A device is employed for drawing the toboggans
back to the starting point. The hotel facilities are ample. Toboggans
and _ski_ can be rented for use here or at the Lake. Clothing and
other winter outfits can be procured. Canadian snow-shoes, however,
must be obtained in San Francisco.
LAKE TAHOE AS A SUMMER RESIDENCE
One of the most marked differences that the traveler observes between
the noted lakes of Europe and Lake Tahoe is the comparative dearth of
homes, summer villas, bungalows, residences, on the latter. This is
natural. California and Nevada are new countries. They have scarcely
had time to "find themselves" fully as yet. It took a thousand years
to people the shores of the European lakes as we find them to-day,
and in due time Tahoe will assuredly come to its own in this regard.
Indeed as John LeConte well wrote a number of years ago:
The shores of Lake Tahoe afford the most beautiful sites for
summer residences. When the states of California and Nevada
become more populous, the delicious summer climate of this
elevated region, the exquisite beauty of the surrounding
scenery, and the admirable facilities afforded for fishing
and other aquatic sports, will dot the shores of this mountain
Lake with the cottages of those who are able to combine health
with pleasure. But it must be remembered that the prolonged
severity of the winter climate, and especially the great
depth of snowfall, render these elevated situations unfit for
permanent residences. According to the observations of Dr.
G.M. Bourne, during the winter of 1873-74, the aggregate
snowfall near the shores of the Lake amounted to more than
thirty-four feet. In fact, frequently there are not more than
four months in the year in which the ground of the margin of
the Lake is entirely free from snow. And the vast gorges which
furrow the sides of the surrounding amphitheater of lofty
peaks are perpetually snow-clad. Hence, it is unreasonable to
assume that many persons besides the wealthy will be able
to enjoy the luxury of private residences here, which can
be occupied only during the summer months of the year.
Nevertheless, when the refinement and taste incident to the
development of an older civilization shall have permeated the
minds of the wealthy classes of citizens, this charming lake
region will not only continue to be the favorite resort of
tourists and artists, but will become, during the summer
season, the abode of families whose abundant means enable them
to enjoy the healthful climate, the gorgeous scenery, and the
invigorating sports which lend an inexpressive charm to the
sojourn on its shores.
Amidst the magnificent nature that surrounds this region,
there should be an inspiration corresponding more or less
with the grandeur of the aspect of the material world. The
modifications impressed upon the moral and intellectual
character of man by the physical aspects of nature, is a
theme more properly belonging to those who have cultivated the
aesthetic side of humanity. The poet and the artist can alone
appreciate, in the fullness of their humanizing influence,
the potent effects of these aesthetic inspirations. The lake
districts in all Alpine countries seem to impress peculiar
characteristics upon their inhabitants.
When quietly floating upon the placid surface of Lake Tahoe,
the largest of the "Gems of the Sierra"--nestled, as it is,
amidst a huge amphitheater of mountain peaks--it is difficult
to say whether we are more powerfully impressed with the
genuine childlike awe and wonder inspired by the contemplation
of the noble grandeur of nature, or with the calmer and more
gentle sense of the beautiful produced by the less imposing
aspects of the surrounding scenery. On the one hand crag and
beetling cliff sweeping in rugged and colossal massiveness
above dark waves of pine and fir, far into the keen and clear
blue air; the huge mantle of snow, so cumulus-like in its
brightness, thrown in many a solid fold over ice-sculptured
crest and shoulders; the dark cathedral-like spires and
splintered pinnacles, half snow, half stone, rising into the
sky like the very pillars of heaven. On the other hand the
waving verdure of the valleys below, the dash of waterfalls,
the plenteous gush of springs,
the laugh and dance of brook and rivulet as they hurry down
the plains. Add to this picture the deep repose of the azure
water, in which are mirrored snow-clad peaks, as well as
marginal fringes of waving forests and green meadows, and it
is difficult to decide whether the sense of grandeur or of
beauty has obtained the mastery of the soul.
THE TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST
The Tahoe National Forest was first set apart by proclamation,
September 17, 1906. Previous to this there had been the Tahoe and Yuba
Forest Reserves which were established by proclamation under the acts
of March 3, 1891, and June 4, 1897. The original Tahoe Forest Reserve
consisted of six townships along the west side of Lake Tahoe. Part of
this territory is now in the Tahoe and part in the El Dorado National
Forest. Changes and additions were later made by proclamations of
March 2, 1909, and July 28, 1910.
Although Lake Tahoe does not lie within any National Forest it is
almost surrounded by the Tahoe and El Dorado Forests. There are a few
miles of shore-line on the Nevada side in the vicinity of Glenbrook
which are not within the National Forest Boundary.
The gross area of the Tahoe National Forest is 1,272,470 acres. Of
this amount, however, 692,677 acres are privately owned. The El Dorado
National Forest has a gross area of 836,200 acres with 284,798 of them
in private hands. These privately owned lands are technically spoken
of as "alienated lands."
The towns of Truckee, Emigrant Gap, Cisco, Donner, Fulda, Downieville,
Sierra City, Alleghany, Forest, Graniteville, Goodyear's Bar, and
Last Chance, as well as Tahoe City, are all within the Tahoe National
It is estimated that there are probably 350 people living on the
Forest outside of the towns. These are principally miners or small
ranch-owners living along the rivers in the lower altitudes.
Slowly but surely the people are awakening to the great value of the
natural resources that are being conserved in the National Forests. In
the Tahoe Reserve the preservation of the forest cover is essential to
the holding of snow and rain-fall, preventing rapid run-off,
thereby conserving much of what would be waste and destructive
_flood-water_, until it can be used for irrigation and other
Many streams of great power possibilities rise and flow through the
Tahoe Forest Reserve, such as the Truckee, Little Truckee, Yuba and
American rivers. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Reclamation
Service the Truckee General Electric Company uses the water that flows
out of Lake Tahoe down the Truckee River for the development of power.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company, of San Francisco, controls the
waters of the South Yuba river, and its Colgate plant is on the main
Yuba, though it obtains some of its water supply from the North Yuba.
Lake Spaulding, one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, is a
creation of this same company. It is situated near Emigrant Gap and is
used for the development of power.
The Northern Water and Power Company controls the Bowman reservoir and
a string of lakes on the headwaters of Canyon Creek, a branch of the
South Yuba river. As yet its power possibilities are not developed.
Through the activities of these companies electricity and water for
irrigation are supplied to towns and country regions contiguous to
their lines, and they have materially aided in the development of the
Only about five per cent. of the Reserve is barren land, and this is
mostly situated at a high elevation above timber line. The tree growth
is excellent, and under proper direction reproduction _could_ be
made all that any one could desire. Fully twenty per cent., however,
of the present Reserve is covered with chaparral. Practically all
of this originally was timbered. The chaparral has grown up because
nothing was done at the proper time to foster reproduction over acres
that had been cut. Systematic and scientific efforts are now being
made to remedy this condition, the rangers being encouraged to
study the trees, gather seeds from the best of their type, plant and
cultivate them. Tree cutting is now so regular as to obtain by natural
reproduction a second crop on the logged-over areas. Where natural
reproduction fails planting is resorted to. Thus it is hoped, in time,
to replant all the logged-over areas now owned by the government,
serving the double purpose of conserving the water-supply and
providing timber for the needs of the future. Much of the timber-land,
however, of the Tahoe region, is patented to private owners. Little,
if anything, is being done towards reforestation on these private
tracts. Legal enactments, ultimately, may produce effective action
along this needed line.
As has elsewhere been shown the world owes a debt of gratitude to the
Tahoe region. Had it not been for the timber secured so readily from
the Tahoe slopes the mining operations of Virginia City, Gold Hill and
Dayton would have been seriously retarded and crippled. As it was the
Tahoe trees were transferred as mining-timbers for propping up
the immense and continuous excavations of that vast series of
honey-combings underground, the products of which revivified the gold
supply of the world.
Tahoe timber also has contributed much to the upbuilding of the
towns and country farms on the whole upper Pacific Coast and interior
regions of Northern California, and today much of its timber finds its
way to San Francisco and other Pacific Coast markets.
At Floriston, on the Truckee River, a mill is in successful operation,
using Tahoe fir for the making of paper. Red and white fir, which are
practically useless for lumber, are found to make excellent wrapping
and tissue papers, and thus, from being unremunerative products of
our forests, become sources of income. After planing off the bark, the
wood is made into small chips, about a half inch square, and an eighth
of an inch thick. These chips are then "digested" by a process of
mixing with acids and cooking, through which it becomes "wood pulp."
Different processes produce different pulps, two of which are mixed
together, allowed to flow out on a very fine wire screen nine feet
wide, revolving at a rate of 300 feet a minute, with a "jigging"
movement from side to side. This makes all the fibers lie flat. They
are then sent through steel rollers, the water squeezed out, and
finally carried over and around twenty-five revolving steam-heated
cylinders which completely dry the paper and put the needed gloss or
finish on it.
The rainfall on the Tahoe Reserve averages about fifty inches
annually, the most frequent rains occurring between October and May.
Necessarily there is much snow-fall on the higher regions. Further
down the snow disappears in the early spring, say March, but in the
upper altitudes it remains until late June, with perpetual snow in the
sheltered portions of the topmost peaks.
Agriculture, owing to the average high altitude, is a negligible
industry in the Reserve, little more being done than to raise a little
fruit, grain and vegetables, mainly for home consumption. Naturally
there is a fair amount of grazing, almost the whole area of the
Reserve being used for this purpose during the summer months. Many
portions of meadow-land are used for dairy-herds, most of the hotels
and resorts on and near Lake Tahoe having their own herds and meadows.
Bands of beef-cattle are also pastured, together with large bands
of sheep, the two kinds of stock often grazing in common, the cattle
using the meadows and the sheep the ridges and timber-lands. In taking
the trail-rides described in other chapters I invariably came across
both cattle and sheep, and all the near-by meadows are occupied by
the dairy-herds belonging to the hotels. Patented lands of private
ownership within the bounds of the Forest are often also leased to
cattle- and sheep-men. Last year it was estimated that there were
47,000 head of sheep, and about 6000 head of cattle on the Reserve.
Under the protection of the rangers grazing conditions are rapidly
improving, the cattle- and sheep-men being held strictly to certain
rules laid down by the Supervisor. Systematic efforts are made to rid
the Forest, as far as possible, of predatory animals that kill the
sheep, also of poisonous plants which render grazing dangerous.
There are far less cattle on the Sierra ranges in the Tahoe region
than there are sheep. During the summer most of the mountain valleys
have their great sheep-bands. Many are brought over from Nevada,
and far more from the Sacramento Valley and other regions near the
Pacific. The feed, as a rule, is good and abundant from the time the
snow leaves until the end of September or even later. Though the year
1913 was the third dry season (comparatively speaking) the region
had suffered, I found a score or more of meadows in my rambles around
Tahoe, where thousands of sheep might have had rich and abundant
But well may John Muir dislike sheep in his beloved Sierras, and term
them in his near-to-hatred "the locusts of the mountains." When the
most fertile valley has been "fed off" by sheep, or they have "bedded
down" night after night upon it, it takes some time before the young
growth comes up again.
It is the custom when the lambing season is over, and the lambs
are strong enough to travel and old enough to ship, to move to some
convenient point on the railway, where there is an abundance of
feed and water on the way, and there ship either to Reno, Carson and
Virginia City, or to some market on the Pacific Coast. Hence overland
travelers on the Southern Pacific trains are often surprised to see
vast flocks of sheep and hear the bleating of the lambs at unlooked
for stations at the highest points of the Sierra Nevada, as at Soda
Springs, Cisco, Emigrant Gap, Blue Canyon, or sidings on the way.
There is a large mining industry within the Reserve. Since 1849 the
western part of the Forest has been most active, one county, Sierra,
having produced since then upwards of $200,000,000. The present output
is much smaller than formerly, still it is large enough to render
mining an important factor in the productive wealth of the state.
In 1853 hydraulic mining was inaugurated near Nevada City. This gave
renewed interest to placer-mining.
Four of the old emigrant roads cross the Tahoe and El Dorado Reserves.
The most famous of these is the one across Donner Pass and through
Emigrant Gap. This was the general course taken by the unfortunate
Donner Party, as recorded in another chapter.
Another road was the Heuness Pass road, on a branch of which was
Nigger Tent, a rendezvous of robbers and cutthroats in the early days.
Prospectors and miners were often robbed and murdered at this place.
The Heuness Pass Road and the Donner Road branch in Sardine Valley,
the former going through by Webber Lake, and the latter through the
present site of Truckee. On the latter road, in the vicinity of You
Bet, is a large tree which bears the name "Fremont's Flagpole," though
it is doubtful whether it was ever used by Fremont for this purpose.
The third important road is the present Placerville Road,--a portion
of the State Highway and the great trans-continental Lincoln Highway,
The fourth is the Amador Grade Road, on which stood the tree whereupon
Kit Carson carved his name.
The Georgetown Road is an important and historic feature of the Tahoe
Region, for it connects Georgetown with Virginia City, and it was from
the former place so many Tahoe pioneers came. I have already referred
to the trail built in the early 60's. Then when the Georgetown miners
constructed a ditch to convey water for mining purposes from Loon
Lake, they soon thereafter, about '72 or '73, built a road about forty
miles long, to enable them to reach the Lake, which was their main
reservoir. Loon, Pleasant and Bixby's Lakes were all dammed and
located upon for the water company.
When the Hunsakers built the road from McKinney's to their Springs in
1883 there was a stretch of only about seven miles from Loon Lake to
the Springs to complete a road between Lake Tahoe and Georgetown.
The matter was laid before the Supervisors of Placer and El Dorado
Counties, and they jointly built the road in 1884, following as
nearly as possible the old Georgetown trail, which was practically the
boundary between the two counties.
While automobiles have gone over it, it is scarcely good enough for
that form of travel, but cattle, sheep and horses are driven over it
constantly, campers make good use of it in the summer, and though it
has not the activity of the days when it was first built, it has fully
justified its existence by the comfort and convenience it gives to the
sparsely settled population of the region for which the waters of
the Reserve were flumed in every direction. When legal enactment
practically abolished placer mining, owing to its ruining the
agricultural lands lower down by the carrying of the mud and silt
upon them, the water systems were utilized for domestic and irrigation
purposes, thus laying the foundation of the great systems now being
used for power purposes.
One of the greatest excitements known in the Tahoe region occurred
when the first notice of the discovery of the Comstock lode in
Virginia City appeared in the _Nevada City Journal_, July 1,
1859. Immediately the whole country was aroused, fully one-third of
all the male population setting forth for the mines. This was also one
of the great urgents in the building of a railway which soon ultimated
in the Central Pacific.
There are several mineral springs of note on the Forest, chief of
which are Deer Park Springs, Glen Alpine Springs and Brockway's.
The most northern grove of Big Trees, _Sequoia Gigantea_, in
existence, is found in the Tahoe Forest, on the Forest Hill Divide,
near the southern boundary of Placer County, on a tributary of the
Middle Fork of the American River. There are six of these trees as
well as several which have fallen.
Dotted over the Reserve are cabins of the rangers. These men live a
most interesting, and sometimes adventurous and daring life. Primarily
their days and nights are largely those of solitude, and it is
interesting to throw a little light upon the way they spend their
Necessarily their chief thought and care is that of protecting the
Forest from fire. To accomplish this end fire-brakes--wide passages,
trails, or roads--are cut through the trees and brush, so that it is
possible to halt a fire when it reaches one of the constant patrols
and watches that are maintained. Lookout stations are placed on
elevated points. In the fall of 1911 a Lookout Tower was erected
on Banner Mountain, four miles southeast of Nevada City, in which a
watchman with a revolving telescope is on duty day and night. This
mountain is at 3900 feet elevation and affords an unobstructed view
of about one-third of the whole area of the Tahoe Forest.
[Illustration: Outlet of Lake Tahoe, Truckee River]
[Illustration: Flock of Sheep Being Driven from the Tahoe National
[Illustration: Island Park, Lake Tahoe]
By a system of maps, sights and signals the location of fires can
be determined with reasonable accuracy, and the telephone enables
warnings to be sent to all concerned.
Telephone lines bisect the Reserve in several directions, and
fire-fighting appliances are _cached_ in accessible places
ready for immediate use. When a Forest officer is notified of the
approximate location of a fire he goes immediately with what help
he thinks he needs. If he finds that the fire is larger than he
can handle with the available force at his command, he notifies
the Supervisor, who secures men from the most practical point and
dispatches them to the fire as soon as possible, by automobile or
To give further fire protection a gasoline launch--the
_Ranger_--twenty-six feet long and with a carrying capacity of
fifteen men, and a speed of about nine miles an hour, was placed on
Lake Tahoe in 1910, at the Kent Ranger Station, located a mile below
the Tavern. The guard who is in charge of this boat is on the Lake
about eight hours each day, going up the Lake in the morning towards
Tallac and taking the northern end of the Lake in the afternoon. The
launch is put in service each year about the 15th of June and kept
there until the fire-danger is over in the fall. Normal years this is
about the 15th of September, but in 1913 the launch remained and the
patrolman was on duty much later.
If the guard sights a fire anywhere within the watershed of Lake
Tahoe, he immediately obtains men at the nearest point and proceeds
to the fire. Since the launch has been on the Lake there have been no
serious fires. Every fire has been caught in its infancy and put out
before any damage has been done. There has been only one fire of any
size on the Lake since the launch was installed. This burned about 20
acres just east of Brockway. Numerous small fires of an acre or less
have been put out each year.
The Forest Guard in charge of the launch for the years 1912-13 was
Mark W. Edmonds. Mr. Edmonds is the son of Dr. H.W. Edmonds, who is
now in the Arctic doing scientific work for the Carnegie Institute.
The force of men at work on the Reserve varies in number according to
the season of the year. When the fire-season is on many more men are
on duty than in the winter-season. The year-long force consists of the
Supervisor, Deputy Supervisor, Forest Clerk, Stenographer, thirteen
Rangers and two Forest Examiners who are Forest School men engaged
chiefly on timber sale and investigative work. The force in 1913
during the season of greatest danger was fifty-six. Some of the
temporary employees are engaged for six months, some for three months
and others for shorter periods. The longer termed men are generally
Assistant Rangers who cannot be employed the year around, but who are
considered first for permanent jobs that occur on the statutory roll
on account of their Civil Service standing.
Forest fires are caused in a variety of ways, but chiefly through
inexcusable carelessness. Now and then lightning produces fire, but
the throwing down of lighted matches by smokers, the butt ends of
cigars and cigarettes that are still alight, leaving camp-fires
unextinguished, or building them too large, allowing fires for burning
waste land or brush to get from under control--these are the chief
sources of forest fires. Accordingly the local and federal authorities
constantly keep posted on Forest Reserves notices calling attention
to the dangers and urging care upon all who use the forests for any
In addition to fire-fighting the rangers are required to give constant
oversight to the sheep- and cattle-ranges, and to the animals that
are brought there, so that the feed is not eaten out, or too many head
pastured upon a given area. Seeds of forest trees must be gathered at
the proper season and experiments in reforestation conducted, besides
a certain amount of actual planting-out performed. The habits of
seed-eating birds and animals are studied, especially in relation to
reforestation. A very small number of squirrels or mice can get away
with a vast number of seeds in a season. Methods of protecting the
seeds without destroying too many of the wild animals must be devised.
Available areas of timber are sought for and offered for sale. Certain
men are detailed to measure the trees and determine the value of the
timber; they must mark the trees included in the sale, leaving out
enough seed-trees for satisfactory reproduction. If it be a second
sale over a cut-over area the problems are somewhat altered. Will the
trees that are left suffer from wind-fall? If partially suppressed
trees are left can they be depended upon to recover and make a good
Then, too, the questions of natural _versus_ artificial
reforestation have to be scientifically studied and exhaustive tests
made. Shall seeds be sown, or shall young trees be planted? Which
trees are best suited for certain localities, and which are the more
profitable when grown?
To many people it is not known that dwellers in or near National
Forests can obtain free of charge timber for their domestic needs.
The rangers determine where this "free area" shall be located, exactly
what trees, whether dead or alive, shall be taken, and endeavor to lay
down rules that shall give equal chances for all comers.
As one of the mottos of the Forest Service is "the greatest good to
the greatest number," small sales are encouraged to those who wish
to make their own lumber or shakes. Settlers in remote localities are
often helped in this manner.
Cases of trespass have to be guarded against, and now and again
suits have had to be brought against loggers for encroaching upon
the territory of the Reserve, and removing timber which they had not
In 1911 every District Ranger was appointed a Deputy Fish and Game
Commissioner and thus was duly authorized to enforce the law in regard
to fish and game.
Another subject of interest and importance to the ranger is the study
of insect infestation. Many trees are killed annually by certain
insects, and these must be discovered and their devastation prevented.
Then, too, there are diseases and parasites that affect the trees, and
this branch of study demands constant attention.
Hence it will be seen that the office of the Forest Ranger is by no
means a sinecure. He works hard and he works long and alone and our
kindly thoughts should go out to him in his solitary patrols and
The present Supervisor of the Tahoe Forest is Richard L.P. Bigelow, to
whose kindness I am indebted for much of the information contained in
PUBLIC USE OF THE WATERS OF LAKE TAHOE
There has always been considerable discussion and dissension among
conflicting interests as to the use of the waters of Lake Tahoe
for private or semi-public uses, and, finally, in 1903 the U.S.
Reclamation Service entered into the field. At my request Mr. D.W.
Cole, engineer-in-charge of the Truckee-Carson project, kindly
furnishes the following data:
Along in the 60's of the last century the region around the
Lake acquired great importance on account of the fine growth
of timber on the surrounding mountain slopes. It is said that
a great many million feet of lumber were harvested in this
region. For many years the entire lumber supply for the old
Comstock mines was derived from this source. Virginia City,
Carson City and the neighboring mining communities were built
from the timber of the Lake Tahoe basin, and it might be said
that the foundation of the fortunes of the California gold
kings, who developed the Comstock mines, was made of the pine
wood which grew upon the shores of Lake Tahoe, without
which that wonderful output of $700,000,000 of gold from the
Comstock lode would have been impossible.
Supplementing the timber supply the water from Marlette
Lake, a tributary to Lake Tahoe, was diverted by a remarkable
engineering achievement for supplying Virginia City and the
deep mines. Marlette Lake lies several hundred feet above Lake
Tahoe on the Nevada side, and half a century ago its waters
were taken through flume, tunnel and pipe line across the
dividing mountain range and out into the desert valley of the
Carson River for sustaining
the gold seekers of Virginia City. This work of the pioneer
engineers was scarcely less bold in its conception and
wonderful in its execution than the famous Sutro tunnel which
drains the underground waters from the Comstock mines.
About 1870 the first use of Lake Tahoe for other than
navigation purposes was made by building a log crib dam at the
outlet for the purpose of storing flood-waters to be used in
log-driving in the Truckee River below the Lake.
The outlet of the Lake was in a land grant section belonging
to the Central Pacific Railway Company, and one of the
earlier lumber companies procured a charter from the State
of California and proceeded to build a dam and operate it for
In the course of time the development of water-power in
the Truckee River below the Lake became of considerable
importance, both for saw-mill and other manufacturing
purposes. The dam at the Lake's outlet was passed from the
possession of the Donner Boom & Lumber Company into the hands
of other interests who were making a larger use of power.
Eventually, in the last decade of the century, the water-power
plants were converted into hydro-electric plants and began to
furnish electric current for power and lighting in the city of
Reno and as far south as Virginia City.
About the year 1908 the ownership of the several hydroelectric
plants was passed to the Truckee River General Electric
Company, under the management of the Stone & Webster
Engineering Corporation, of Boston, one of the very large
public utilities corporations of the country.
This company has enlarged and improved the plants and is now
furnishing a large amount of electric current for all purposes
in Reno, Virginia City, Carson City, Yerington, Thompson,
Minden and various other towns and mining camps in the State
of Nevada, forming a group of communities which are wholly
dependent upon this power for their various purposes.
In 1903 the United States Reclamation Service filed an
appropriation of all surplus waters which had theretofore gone
to waste from Lake Tahoe, and under this appropriation, with
others covering waters in the Carson River, the
Truckee-Carson Reclamation Project in Nevada was commenced.
By this irrigation project it is proposed to cover an area
of about 206,000 acres, of which 35,000 acres are now being
irrigated and about 500 families have their homes upon
productive lands, which were formerly a part of the great
desert which was traversed with much suffering by the pioneer
In 1908 the Reclamation Service entered into negotiations for
the purchase of the real estate and dam controlling the outlet
of Lake Tahoe, but before the purchase was concluded the
reorganized power company secured possession of the property.
A condemnation suit was then brought by the United States
to acquire possession and control of the Lake's outlet. A
contract was entered into with the power company for the joint
building of a new dam with gates for controlling the outlet
from the Lake. This dam was partly built in 1909, replacing
a portion of the old timber structure. Owing to various
complications this new cement dam has stood in an uncomplete
condition until the fall of 1913 when arrangements were made
for its completion, and now the structure is entirely done and
is well adapted to control the outlet from the Lake so as
to hold the waters at satisfactory levels according to the
various uses for which the water is required.
There have been confusing statements made in the public press
and otherwise concerning the intentions and actions of the
Reclamation Service and of the power company. The gist of
the whole matter is that both the Reclamation Service and
the power company have proposed by means of the new dam to
regulate the Lake within a range of six feet vertically,
this being well within the limits of fluctuations which have
occurred during the past 40 years when the Lake has been
partially controlled by means of the old logging dam, and
during which period the navigation and resort interests have
taken the place of the lumber business in the commercial
aspects of the Lake.
The records show that during these 40 years the Lake has
fluctuated to the extent of a little more than eight feet
between low and high water marks.
The landowners around the Lake are principally interested in
its esthetic qualities as a basis for the commercial interests
involved in the tourist traffic and summer resort business.
These interests would naturally desire the Lake to be held at
a fixed level.
Likewise the navigation interests which operate a large
number of boats of various sizes would be best pleased with a
stationary level of the Lake, in order that their wharves and
boat routes might be built and maintained for a single level
of the water.
On the other hand the natural conditions and the use of water
for power and irrigation, which are among the older vested
rights, require the Lake to be used to some extent as a
storage reservoir, which implies a fluctuating level.
The whole problem is to reconcile these various interests so
as to derive the greatest possible economic advantages while
maintaining the great beauties of the Lake for those whose
interests lie mainly in that direction.
There has been suspicion on the part of some of the riparian
owners that either the power company or the Government, or
both, have been entertaining ulterior motives with the purpose
of drawing down the Lake to unprecedented levels and of
extracting from the Lake an amount of water greater than the
average annual inflow. It may be stated once for all that
there has never been such a purpose and that all calculations
of the available water in the Lake have been based upon a long
record of seasonable fluctuations which prove that the average
annual outflow from the Lake is about 300,000 acre feet.
All plans have contemplated the use of _only_ this average
amount of water annually.
The Lake has an area of 193 square miles. The elevation of its
high-water mark has been at 6231.3, whereas its low-water mark
is recorded at elevation 6223.1 above sea level.
Should the Government be successful in acquiring the outlet
property from the power company by the condemnation suit now
in court, it is proposed to operate the gates of the dam at
all times so as to maintain the Lake at the highest level
consistent with the maintenance of a desirable shore-line and the
conservation of water for the public utilities. It is proposed
never to draw the Lake below the previous low-water mark or to
allow it to rise as high as the previous high-water mark, at
which low and high limits damage in some degree was done to one
or another's interests at the Lake.
The regulation proposed by the Government provides for
recognition and protection of all rights in and to the waters
and shores of Lake Tahoe, including the rights of the general
public and of the lovers of natural beauty everywhere, and it
is believed that the charms, as well as the utilities, of this
paragon of lakes can more safely be entrusted to a permanent
government agency than to any single private interest.
A few additions to Mr. Cole's lucid statement will help the general
reader to a fuller comprehension of the difficulty as between the
States of Nevada and California. It will be recalled that Lake Tahoe
has an area of about 193 square miles, of which 78 square miles are in
the counties of Washoe, Ormsby and Douglas, Nevada, the remaining 115
square miles being in Placer and El Dorado Counties, California.
Because of this fact, that nearly two-thirds of the superficial area
of the Lake is in California, the people of California claim that they
have the natural and inherent right to control, even to determining of
its disposal at least nearly two-thirds of the water of the Lake.
The situation, however, is further complicated by the fact that the
only outlet to the Lake is in California near Tahoe City, in Placer
County, into the Truckee River, which meanders for some miles in a
northeasterly course until it leaves California, enters Nevada, passes
through the important city of Reno, and finally empties into Pyramid
Lake, which practically has no outlet.
In response to the claim of California, the people of Nevada, in which
it appears they are backed up by the U.S. Reclamation Service, contend
that Nature has already determined whither the overflow waters of
Lake Tahoe shall go. That, while they do not wish in the slightest
to restrict the proper use of the waters of the Truckee River by the
dwellers upon that river, they insist that no one else is entitled
to their use, and that every drop of superfluous water, legally and
morally, belongs to them, to be used as they deem proper.
In accordance with this conception of their rights the Nevada
legislature passed the following act, which was approved, March 6,
That for the purpose of aiding the Truckee-Carson reclamation
project now being carried out by the Reclamation Service
of the United States of America, under the Act of Congress
approved June 17, 1902 (32 Stat. p. 384), known as the
Reclamation Act, and acts amendatory thereof or supplementary
thereto, consent is hereby given to the use by the United
States of America of Lake Tahoe, situated partly in the State
of California and partly in the State of Nevada, and the
waters, bed, shores and capability of use for reservoir
purposes thereof, in such manner and to such extent as the
United States of America through its lawful agencies shall
think proper for such purpose, and as fully as the State of
Nevada could use the same, provided, however, that the consent
hereby given is without prejudice to any existing rights that
persons or corporations may have in Lake Tahoe or the Truckee
At the present time (winter of 1914-15) the matter is in the
courts awaiting adjudication, which it is to be hoped, while being
satisfactory to all parties to the suit, will fully conserve for the
scenic enjoyment of the world all the charms for which Tahoe has been
so long and so justly famous.
MARK TWAIN AT LAKE TAHOE
Early in the 'sixties the immortal Mark made his mark at Lake Tahoe.
In his _Roughing It_, he devotes Chapters XXII and XXIII to the
subject. With the kind consent of his publishers, Harper Bros, of New
York, the following extracts are presented.
Later, when in Italy, he described Lake Como and compared it with
Tahoe in _Innocents Abroad_, and while his prejudices against the
Indians led him to belittle the Indian name--Tahoe--and in so doing to
make several errors of statement, the descriptions are excellent and
the interested reader is referred to them as being well worthy his
Chapter XXII, _Roughing It_.--We had heard a world of
talk about the marvelous beauty of Lake Tahoe, and finally
curiosity drove us thither to see it. Three or four members of
the Brigade had been there and located some timber lands
on its shores and stored up a quantity of provisions in their
camp. We strapped a couple of blankets on our shoulders
and took an ax apiece and started--for we intended to
take up a wood ranch or so ourselves and become wealthy. We
were on foot. The reader will find it advantageous to go on
horseback. We were told that the distance was eleven miles.
We tramped a long time on level ground, and then toiled
laboriously up a mountain about a thousand miles high and
looked over. No lake there. We descended on the other side,
crossed the valley and toiled up another mountain three or
four thousand miles high, apparently, and looked over again.
No lake yet. We sat down tired and perspiring, and hired a
couple of Chinamen to curse those people who had beguiled us.
Thus refreshed, we presently resumed the march with renewed
vigor and determination. We plodded on, two or three hours
longer, and at last the Lake burst upon us--a noble sheet of
blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the
level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snowclad mountain
peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher
still! It was a vast oval, and one would have to use up eighty
or a hundred good miles in traveling around it. As it
lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly
photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely
be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.
[Footnote 1: The "Brigade" to which the distinguished humorist here
refers was a company of fourteen camp-followers of the Governor
of Nevada, who boarded at the same house as Mark, that of Mrs.
O'Flannigan. They had joined the Governor's retinue "by their own
election at New York and San Francisco, and came along, feeling that
in the scuffle for little territorial crumbs and offices they could
not make their condition more precarious than it was, and might
reasonably expect to make it better. They were popularly known as the
'Irish Brigade,' though there were only four or five Irishmen among
... After supper as the darkness closed down and the stars
came out and spangled the great mirror with jewels, we smoked
meditatively in the solemn hush and forgot our troubles and
our pains. In due time we spread our blankets in the warm sand
between two large bowlders and soon fell asleep.... The wind
rose just as we were losing consciousness, and we were lulled
to sleep by the beating of the surf upon the shore.
It is always very cold on that Lake shore in the night, but we
had plenty of blankets and were warm enough. We never moved
a muscle all night, but waked at early dawn in the original
positions, and got up at once thoroughly refreshed, free from
soreness, and brim full of friskiness. There is no end of
wholesome medicine in such an experience. That morning
we could have whipped ten such people as we were the day
before--sick ones at any rate. But the world is slow, and
people will go to "water cures" and "movement cures" and to
foreign lands for health.
to Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an
Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite
like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest
mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in
the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And
why shouldn't it be?--It is the same the angels breathe.
I think that hardly any amount of fatigue can be gathered
together that a man cannot sleep off in one night on the sand
by its side. Not under a roof, but under the sky; it seldom or
never rains there in the summer time.
... Next morning while smoking the pipe of peace after
breakfast we watched the sentinel peaks put on the glory of
the sun, and followed the conquering light as it swept down
among the shadows, and set the captive crags and forests free.
We watched the tinted pictures grow and brighten upon the
water till every little detail of forest, precipice, and
pinnacle was wrought in and finished, and the miracle of the
enchanter complete. Then to "business."
That is, drifting around in the boat. We were on the north
shore. There, the rocks on the bottom are sometimes gray,
sometimes white. This gives the marvelous transparency of the
water a fuller advantage than it has elsewhere on the Lake. We
usually pushed out a hundred yards or so from the shore, and
then lay down on the thwarts in the sun, and let the boat
drift by the hour whither it would. We seldom talked. It
interrupted the Sabbath stillness, and marred the dreams the
luxurious rest and indolence brought. The shore all along was
indented with deep, curved bays and coves, bordered by
narrow sand-beaches; and where the sand ended, the steep
mountain-sides rose right up aloft into space--rose up like
a vast wall a little out of the perpendicular, and thickly
wooded with tall pines.
So singularly clear was the water, that where it was only
twenty or thirty feet deep the bottom was so perfectly
distinct that the boat seemed floating in the air! Yes, where
it was even _eighty_ feet deep. Every little pebble was
distinct, every speckled trout, every hand's-breadth of sand.
Often, as we lay on our faces, a granite bowlder, as large as
a village church, would start out of the bottom apparently,
and seem climbing up rapidly to the surface, till presently
it threatened to touch our faces, and we could not resist the
impulse to seize an oar and avert the danger. But the boat
would float on, and the bowlder descend again, and then we
could see that when we had been exactly above it, it must have
been twenty or thirty feet below the surface. Down through
the transparency of these great depths, the water was not
_merely_ transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so. All
objects seen through it had a bright, strong vividness, not
only of outline, but of every minute detail, which they
would not have had when seen simply through the same depth of
atmosphere. So empty and airy did all spaces seem below
us, and so strong was the sense of floating high aloft
in mid-nothingness, that we called these boat-excursions
We fished a good deal, but we did not average one fish a
week. We could see trout by the thousand winging about in the
emptiness under us, or sleeping in shoals on the bottom, but
they would not bite--they could see the line too plainly,
perhaps. We frequently selected the trout we wanted, and
rested the bait patiently and persistently on the end of his
nose at a depth of eighty feet, but he would only shake it off
with an annoyed manner, and shift his position.
[Footnote 1: These extracts are made from Mark Twain's copyrighted
works by especial arrangement with his publishers, Harper & Bros.,
MARK TWAIN AND THE FOREST RANGERS
In a quarterly magazine published solely for the Rangers of the Tahoe
Reserve, one of the Rangers thus "newspaperizes" Mark's experiences
in two different sketches, one as it was in 1861 "before" the
establishment of the Reserve, and the other as it would be "now."
AS IT WAS IN 1861
_Extract from January Harper's_.--Mark Twain heard that
the timber around Lake Bigler (Tahoe) promised vast wealth
which could be had for the asking. He decided to locate a
timber claim on its shores. He went to the Lake with a young
Ohio lad, staked out a timber claim, and made a semblance of
fencing it and of building a habitation, to comply with the
law. They did not sleep in the house, of which Mark Twain
says: "It never occurred to us for one thing, and besides, it
was built to hold the ground, and that was enough. We did not
wish to strain it."
They lived by their camp-fire on the borders of the Lake and
one day--it was just at nightfall--it got away from them,
fired the Forest, and destroyed their fence and habitation.
His picture of the superb night spectacle--the mighty mountain
conflagration--is splendidly vivid.
"The level ranks of flame were relieved at intervals by the
standard-bearers, as we called the tall dead trees, wrapped in
fire, and waving their blazing banners a hundred feet in the
air. Then we could turn from the scene to the Lake and see
every branch and leaf, and cataract of flame upon its banks
perfectly reflected, as in a gleaming, fiery mirror. The
mighty roaring of the conflagration, together with our
solitary and somewhat unsafe position (for there was no one
within six miles of us), rendered the scene very impressive."
AS IT WOULD BE NOW
_Press Dispatch_,--_August_ 15, 1912.
MARK TWAIN FIRES FOREST! ! !
NOTED HUMORIST CHARGED BY FOREST OFFICERS WITH CRIMINAL
Mark Twain and a friend from Ohio, who have been camping on
Lake Tahoe, are responsible for a Forest fire which burned
over about 200 acres before it was checked by Forest
officers. The fire was sighted at 6 o'clock P.M. by one of the
cooeperative patrolmen of the Crown Columbia Paper Company, who
at once telephoned to the tender of the Launch 'Ranger' for
help. Within an hour the launch was on the scene with a dozen
men picked up at Tahoe City, and by 10 o'clock the fire was
practically under control.
Twain and his friend were found spell-bound by the Rangers, at
the impressiveness of the fire. After fighting it for several
hours, however, its grandeur palled upon them, and at the
present time they are considerably exercised inasmuch as
it was ascertained that the fire was a result of their
carelessness in leaving a camp-fire to burn unattended. It is
extremely likely that the well-known humorist will find the
penalty attendant to his carelessness, no "joking" matter.
To which I take the liberty of adding the following:
From the _Nevada City Bulletin_, Sept. 6, 1912.
Samuel L. Clemens (popularly known as Mark Twain), together with
Silas Snozzlebottom, of Columbus, Ohio, was to-day arraigned
before Justice Brown, of the Superior Court, charged with having
caused a destructive fire by leaving his campfire unattended. The
eminent humorist and author was evidently unaware of the
seriousness of his offense for he positively refused to engage an
attorney to defend him. When called upon to plead he began to
explain that while he confessed to lighting the fire, and leaving
it unattended, he wished the Judge to realize that it was the act
of God in sending the wind that spread the flames that caused the
destructive fire which ensued. The Judge agreed with him, and
then grimly said it was a similar act of God which impelled him
to levy a fine of $500.00 and one month in jail for leaving his
campfire subject to the influence of the wind. The humorist began
to smile "on the left," and expressed an earnest desire to argue
the matter out with the Judge, but with a curt "Next Case!" Mark
was dismissed in charge of an officer and retired "smiling a
sickly smile," and though he did not "curl up on the floor," it
is evident that the subsequent proceedings interested him no
THOMAS STARR KING AT LAKE TAHOE
In 1863 Thomas Starr King, perhaps the most noted and broadly honored
divine ever known on the Pacific Coast, visited Lake Tahoe, and on
his return to San Francisco preached a sermon, entitled: "Living
Water from Lake Tahoe." Its descriptions are so felicitous that I am
gratified to be able to quote them from Dr. King's volume of Sermons
_Christianity and Humanity_, with the kind permission of the
publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Company, Boston, Mass.
LIVING WATER FROM LAKE TAHOE
When one is climbing from the west, by the smooth and
excellent road, the last slope of the Sierra ridge, he
expects, from the summit of the pass, which is more than seven
thousand feet above the sea, higher than the famous pass of
the Splugen, or the little St. Bernard, to look off and down
upon an immense expanse. He expects, or, if he had not learned
beforehand, he would anticipate with eagerness, that he should
be able to see mountain summits beneath him, and beyond these,
valleys and ridges alternating till the hills subside into
the eastern plains. How different the facts that await the
eye from the western summit, and what a surprise! We find, on
gaining what seems to be the ridge, that the Sierra range
for more than a hundred miles has a double line of jagged
pinnacles, twelve or fifteen miles apart, with a trench or
trough between, along a portion of the way, that is nearly
fifteen hundred feet deep if we measure from the pass which
the stages traverse, which is nearly three thousand feet deep
if the plummet is dropped from the highest points of the snowy
Down into this trench we look, and opposite upon the eastern
wall and crests, as we ride out to the eastern edge of the
western summit. In a stretch of forty miles the chasm of it
bursts into view at once, half of which is a plain sprinkled
with groves of pine, and the other half an expanse of level
blue that mocks the azure into which its guardian towers
soar. This is Lake Tahoe, an Indian name which signifies "High
Water." We descend steadily by the winding mountain-road, more
than three miles to the plain, by which we drive to the shore
of the Lake; but it is truly Tahoe, "High Water." For we stand
more than a mile, I believe more than six thousand feet above
the sea, when we have gone down from the pass to its sparkling
beach. It has about the same altitude as the Lake of Mount
Cenis (6280 feet) in Switzerland, and there is only one sheet
of water in Europe that can claim a greater elevation (Lake
Po de Vanasque, 7271 feet). There are several, however, that
surpass it in the great mountain-chains of the Andes and of
Hindustan. The Andes support a lake at 12,000 feet above
the sea, and one of the slopes of the Himalaya, in Thibet,
encloses and upholds a cup of crystal water 15,600 feet above
the level of the Indian Ocean, covering an area, too, of 250
square miles. I had supposed, however, that within the
immense limits of the American Republic, or north of us on the
continent, there is no sheet of water that competes with Tahoe
in altitude and interest. But in Mariposa County of our State
there are two lakes, both small,--one 8300 feet, and the other
11,000 feet,--on the Sierra above the line of the sea.
To a wearied frame and tired mind what refreshment there is in
the neighborhood of this lake! The air is singularly searching
and strengthening. The noble pines, not obstructed by
underbrush, enrich the slightest breeze with aroma and music.
Grand peaks rise around, on which the eye can admire the
sternness of everlasting crags and the equal permanence
of delicate and feathery snow. Then there is the sense of
seclusion from the haunts and cares of men, of being upheld
on the immense billow of the Sierra, at an elevation near the
line of perpetual snow, yet finding the air genial, and the
loneliness clothed with the charm of feeling the sense of the
mystery of the mountain heights,
the part of a chain that link the two polar seas, and of the
mystery of the water poured into the granite bowl, whose rim
is chased with the splendor of perpetual frost, and whose
bounty, flowing into the Truckee stream, finds no outlet into
the ocean, but sinks again into the land.
Everything is charming in the surroundings of the mountain
Lake; but as soon as one walks to the beach of it, and surveys
its expanse, it is the color, or rather the colors, spread out
before the eye, which holds it with greatest fascination.
I was able to stay eight days in all, amidst that calm
and cheer, yet the hues of the water seemed to become more
surprising with each hour. The Lake, according to recent
measurement, is about twenty-one miles in length, by twelve or
thirteen in breadth. There is no island visible to break
its sweep, which seems to be much larger than the figures
indicate. And the whole of the vast surface, the boundaries of
which are taken in easily at once by the range of the eye, is
a mass of pure splendor. When the day is calm, there is a ring
of the Lake, extending more than a mile from shore, which is
brilliantly green. Within this ring the vast center of the
expanse is of a deep, yet soft and singularly tinted blue.
Hues cannot be more sharply contrasted than are these
permanent colors. They do not shade into each other; they lie
as clearly defined as the course of glowing gems in the wall
of the New Jerusalem. It is precisely as if we were looking
upon an immense floor of lapis lazuli set within a ring of
The cause of this contrast is the sudden change in the depth
of the water at a certain distance from shore. For a mile or
so the basin shelves gradually, and then suddenly plunges
off into unknown depths. The center of the Lake must be a
tremendous pit. A very short distance from where the water is
green and so transparent that the clean stones can be seen on
the bottom a hundred feet below, the blue water has been
found to be fourteen hundred feet deep; and in other portions
soundings cannot be obtained with a greater extent of line.
What a savage chasm the lake-bed must be! Empty the water from
it and it is pure and unrelieved desolation. And the sovereign
loveliness of the water that fills it is its color. The very
savageness of the rent and fissure is made the condition
of the purest charm. The Lake does not feed a permanent river.
We cannot trace any issue of it to the ocean. It is not, that
we know, a well-spring to supply any large district with
water for ordinary use. It seems to exist for beauty. And its
peculiar beauty has its root in the peculiar harshness and
wildness of the deeps it hides.
Brethren, this question of color in nature, broadly studied,
leads us quickly to contemplate and adore the love of God. If
God were the Almighty chiefly,--if he desired to impress us
most with his omnipotence and infinitude, and make us bow with
dread before him, how easily the world could have been made
more somber, how easily our senses could have been created to
receive impressions of the bleak vastness of space, how easily
the mountains might have been made to breathe terror from
their cliffs and walls, how easily the general effect of
extended landscapes might have been monotonous and gloomy! If
religion is, as it has so often been conceived to be,
hostile to the natural good and joy which the heart seeks
instinctively,--if sadness, if melancholy, be the soul of
its inspiration, and misery for myriads the burden of its
prophecy,--I do not believe that the vast deeps of space above
us would have been tinted with tender azure, hiding their
awfulness; I do not believe that storms would break away into
rainbows, and that the clouds of sunset would display the
whole gamut of sensuous splendor; I do not believe that the
ocean would wear such joy for the eye over its awful abysses;
I do not believe that the mountains would crown the complete,
the general loveliness of the globe.
The eloquent preacher then continues to draw other lessons from the
Lake, but, unfortunately, our space is too limited to allow quotation
in full. The following, however, are short excerpts which suggest the
richness of the fuller expression:
The color of the Lake is a word from this natural Gospel. It
covers the chasms and wounds of the earth with splendor. It is
what the name of the lovely New Hampshire lake, Winnepesaukee
indicates, "The Smile of the Great Spirit."
And this color is connected with purity. The green ring
of the Lake is so brilliant, the blue enclosed by it is so
deep and tender, because there is no foulness in the water.
The edge of the waves along all the beach is clean. The
granite sand, too, often dotted with smooth-washed jaspers and
garnets and opaline quartz, is especially bright and spotless.
In fact, the Lake seems to be conscious, and to have an
instinct against contamination. Several streams pour their
burden from the mountains into it; but the impurities which
they bring down seem to be thrown back from the lip of the
larger bowl, and form bars of sediment just before they can
reach its sacred hem. Dip from its white-edged ripples, or
from its calm heart, or from the foam that breaks over its
blue when the wind rouses it to frolic, and you dip what is
fit for a baptismal font,--you dip purity itself.
* * * * *
The purity of nature is the expression of joy, and it is a
revelation to us that the Creator's holiness is not repellent
and severe. God tries to win you by his Spirit, which clothes
the world with beauty, to trust him, to give up your evil that
you may find deeper communion with him, and to recognize the
charm of goodness which alone is harmony with the cheer and
the purity of the outward world.
I must speak of another lesson, connected with religion,
that was suggested to me on the borders of Lake Tahoe. It is
bordered by groves of noble pines. Two of the days that I was
permitted to enjoy there were Sundays. On one of them I passed
several hours of the afternoon in listening, alone, to the
murmur of the pines, while the waves were gently beating the
shore with their restlessness. If the beauty and purity of the
Lake were in harmony with the deepest religion of the Bible,
certainly the voice of the pines was also in chord with it.
* * * * *
I read under the pines of Lake Tahoe, on that Sunday
afternoon, some pages from a recent English work that raises
the question of inspiration. Is the Bible the word of God,
or the words of men? It is neither. It is the word of God
breathed through the words of men, inextricably intertwined
with them as the tone of the wind with the quality of the
tree. We must go to the Bible as to a grove of evergreens, not
asking for cold, clear truth, but for sacred influence, for
revival to the devout sentiment, for the
breath of the Holy Ghost, not as it wanders in pure space, but
as it sweeps through cedars and pines.
* * * * *
In my Sunday musing by the shore of our Lake, I raised the
question,--Who were looking upon the waters of Tahoe when
Jesus walked by the beach of Gennesareth? Did men look upon
it then? And if so were they above the savage level, and could
they appreciate its beauty? And before the time of Christ,
before the date of Adam, however far back we may be obliged
to place our ancestor, for what purpose was this luxuriance
of color, this pomp of garniture? How few human eyes have yet
rested upon it in calmness, to drink in its loveliness! There
are spots near the point of the shore where the hotel stands,
to which not more than a few score intelligent visitors
have yet been introduced. Such a nook I was taken to by a
cultivated friend. We sailed ten miles on the water to the
mouth of a mountain stream that pours foaming into its
green expanse. We left the boat, followed this stream by its
downward leaps through uninvaded nature for more than a mile,
and found that it flows from a smaller lake, not more than
three miles in circuit, which lies directly at the base of
two tremendous peaks of the Sierra, white with immense and
perpetual snow-fields. The same ring of vivid green, the same
center of soft deep blue, was visible in this smaller mountain
bowl, and it is fed by a glorious cataract, supported by
those snow-fields, which pours down in thundering foam, at one
point, in a leap of a hundred feet to die in that brilliant
color, guarded by those cold, dumb crags.
Never since the creation has a particle of that water turned a
wheel, or fed a fountain for human thirst, or served any form
of mortal use. Perhaps the eyes of not a hundred intelligent
spirits on the earth have yet looked upon that scene. Has
there been any waste of its wild and lonely beauty? Has Tahoe
been wasted because so few appreciative souls have studied
and enjoyed it? If not a human glance had yet fallen upon it,
would its charms of color and surroundings be wasted charms?
* * * * *
Where we discern beauty and yet seclusion, loveliness and yet
no human use, we can follow up the created charm to
yet the mind of the Creator, and think of it as realizing a
conception or a dream by him. He delights in his works. To the
bounds of space their glory is present as one vision to his
eye. And it is our sovereign privilege that we are called to
the possibility of sympathy with his joy. The universe is
the home of God. He has lined its walls with beauty. He has
invited us into his palace. He offers to us the glory of
sympathy with his mind. By love of nature, by joy in the
communion with its beauty, by growing insight into the wonders
of color, form, and purpose, we enter into fellowship with the
Creative art. We go into harmony with God. By dullness of eye
and deadness of heart to natural beauty, we keep away from
sympathy with God, who is the fountain of loveliness as well
as the fountain of love. But the inmost harmony with the
Infinite we find only through love, and the reception of his
love. Then we are prepared to see the world aright, to find
the deepest joy in its pure beauty, and to wait for the hour
of translation to the glories of the interior and deeper
JOSEPH LECONTE AT LAKE TAHOE
Joseph LeConte, from whom LeConte Lake is named, the best-beloved
professor of the University of California, and its most noted
geologist, in the year 1870 started out with a group of students of
his geology classes, and made a series of _Ramblings in the High
Sierras_. These were privately printed in 1875, and from a copy
given to me many years ago by the distinguished author, I make the
following extracts on Lake Tahoe:
_August_ 20, (1870). I am cook to-day. I therefore got
up at daybreak and prepared breakfast while the rest enjoyed
their morning snooze. After breakfast we hired a sail-boat,
partly to fish, but mainly to enjoy a sail on this beautiful
Oh! the exquisite beauty of this Lake--its clear waters,
emerald-green, and the deepest ultramarine blue; its pure
shores, rocky or cleanest gravel, so clean that the chafing of
the waves does not stain in the least the bright clearness of
the waters; the high granite mountains, with serried peaks,
which stand close around its very shore to guard its crystal
purity,--this Lake, not _among_, but _on_, the
mountains, lifted six thousand feet towards the deep-blue
overarching sky, whose image it reflects! We tried to fish for
trout, but partly because the speed of the sail-boat could
not be controlled, and partly because we enjoyed the scene far
more than the fishing, we were unsuccessful, and soon gave
it up. We sailed some six or eight miles, and landed in a
beautiful cove on the Nevada side. Shall we go in swimming?
Newspapers in San Francisco say there is something peculiar
in the waters of this high mountain Lake. It is so light, they
say, that logs of timber sink immediately, and bodies
of drowned animals never rise; that it is impossible to swim
in it; that, essaying to do so, many good swimmers have
been drowned. These facts are well attested by newspaper
scientists, and therefore not doubted by newspaper readers.
Since leaving Oakland, I have been often asked by the young
men the scientific explanation of so singular a fact. I have
uniformly answered, "We will try scientific experiments when
we arrive there." That time had come. "Now then, boys," I
cried, "for the scientific experiment I promised you!" I
immediately plunged in head-foremost and struck out boldly. I
then threw myself on my back, and lay on the surface with
ray limbs extended and motionless for ten minutes, breathing
quietly the while. All the good swimmers quickly followed. It
is as easy to swim and float in this as in any other water.
Lightness from diminished atmospheric pressure? Nonsense! In
an almost incompressible liquid like water, the diminished
density produced by diminished pressure would be more than
counterbalanced by increased density produced by cold.
After our swim, we again launched our boat, and sailed out
into the very middle of the Lake. The wind had become very
high, and the waves quite formidable. We shipped wave after
wave, so that those of us who were sitting in the bows got
drenched. It was very exciting. The wind became still
higher; several of the party got very sick, and two of them
_cascaded_. I was not in the least affected, but, on
the contrary, enjoyed the sail very much. About 2 P.M. we
concluded it was time to return, and therefore tacked about
The wind was now dead ahead, and blowing very hard. The boat
was a very bad sailer, and so were _we_. We beat up
against the wind a long time, and made but little headway.
Finally, having concluded we would save time and patience by
doing so, we ran ashore on the beach about a mile from camp
and towed the boat home. The owner of the boat told us that
_he_ would not have risked the boat or his life in the
middle of the Lake on such a day. "Where ignorance is bliss,"
After a hearty supper we gathered around the fire, and the
young men sang in chorus until bedtime. "Now then, boys,"
cried I, "for a huge camp-fire, for it will be cold tonight!"
We all scattered in the woods, and every man returned with a
log, and soon the leaping blaze seemed to overtop the pines.
We all lay around, with our feet to the fire, and soon sank
into deep sleep.
_August 21_. Sunday at Tahoe! I wish I could spend it
in perfect quiet. But my underclothes must be changed.
Cleanliness is a Sunday duty. Some washing is necessary. Some
of the party went fishing to-day. The rest of us remained in
camp and mended or washed clothes.
At 12 M. I went out alone, and sat on the shore of the Lake,
with the waves breaking at my feet. How brightly emerald-green
the waters near the shore, and how deeply and purely blue
in the distance! The line of demarcation is very distinct,
showing that the bottom drops off suddenly. How distinct the
mountains and cliffs all around the Lake; only lightly tinged
with blue on the farther side, though more than twenty miles
How greatly is one's sense of beauty affected by association!
Lake Mono is surrounded by much grander and more varied
mountain scenery than this; its waters are also very clear,
and it has the advantage of several very picturesque islands;
but the dead volcanoes, the wastes of volcanic sand and ashes
covered only by interminable sagebrush, the bitter, alkaline,
dead, slimy waters, in which nothing but worms live; the
insects and flies which swarm on its surface, and which are
thrown upon its shore in such quantities as to infect the
air,--all these produce a sense of desolation and death
which is painful; it destroys entirely the beauty of the lake
itself; it unconsciously mingles with and alloys the pure
enjoyment of the incomparable mountain scenery in its
vicinity. On the contrary, the deep-blue, pure waters of Lake
Tahoe, rivaling in purity and blueness the sky itself; its
clear, bright emerald shore-waters, breaking snow-white on its
clean rock and gravel shores; the Lake basin, not on a plain,
with mountain scenery in the distance, but counter-sunk in
the mountain's top itself,--these produce a never-ceasing and
ever-increasing sense of joy, which naturally grows into love.
There would seem to be no beauty except as associated with
human life and connected with a sense of fitness for human
happiness. Natural beauty is but the type of spiritual beauty.
Enjoyed a very refreshing swim in the Lake this afternoon.
The water is much less cold than that of Lake Tenaya or the
Tuolumne River, or even the Nevada River.
The party which went out fishing returned with a very large
trout. It was delicious.
I observe on the Lake ducks, gulls, terns, etc., and about it
many sandhill cranes--the white species, the clanging cry of
these sounds pleasant to me by early association.
_August 22_. Nothing to do to-day. Would be glad to sail
on the Lake or fish, but too expensive hiring boats. Our funds
are nearly exhausted. Would be glad to start for home, but
one of our party--Pomroy--has gone to Carson City, and we must
wait for him.
I went down alone to the Lake, sat down on the shore and
enjoyed the scene. Nothing to do, my thoughts to-day naturally
went to the dear ones at home. Oh! how I wish they could be
here and enjoy with me this lovely Lake! I could dream away my
life here with those I love. How delicious a dream! Of all the
places I have yet seen, this is the one I could longest enjoy
and love the most. Reclining thus in the shade, on the clean
white sand, the waves rippling at my feet, with thoughts of
Lake Tahoe and of my loved ones mingling in my mind, I fell
into a delicious doze. After my doze I returned to camp, to
About 5 P.M. took another and last swim in the Lake.
Pomroy, who went to Carson, returned 7 P.M. After supper,
again singing in chorus, and then the glorious campfire.
JOHN VANCE CHENEY AT LAKE TAHOE
One of America's poets who long lived in California, and then, after
an honorable and useful sojourn as Director of one of the important
libraries of the East, returned to spend the remainder of his
days--John Vance Cheney--in 1882, made the trip to Lake Tahoe by stage
from Truckee, and, among other fine pieces of description, wrote the
following which appeared in _Lippincott's_ for August, 1883:
One more ascent has been made, one more turn rounded, and
behold, from an open elevation, close upon its shore, Lake
Tahoe in all its calm beauty bursts suddenly upon the sight.
Nestled among the snowy summit-peaks of the Sierra Nevada,
more than six thousand feet above sea-level, it lies in
placid transparency. The surrounding heights are all the more
pleasing to the eye because of their lingering winter-cover;
and as we gaze upon the Lake, unruffled by the
gentlest breeze, we marvel at the quiet,--almost
supernatural,--radiancy of the scene. Lakes in other lands
may present greater beauty of artificial setting,--beauty
dependent largely upon picturesqueness, where vineyards and
ivied ruins heighten the effect of natural environment,--but
for nature pure and simple, for chaste beauty and native
grandeur, one will hesitate before naming the rival of Lake
Tahoe. This singularly impressive sheet of water, one of
the highest in the world, gains an indescribable but
easily-perceived charm by its remoteness, its high, serene,
crystal isolation. Its lights and shades, its moods and
passions, are changing, rapid, and free as the way of the
A true child of nature, it varies ever, from hour to hour
enchanting with new and strange fascination. The thousand
voices of the lofty Sierra call to it, and it answers; all the
colors of the rainbow gather upon it, receiving in their turn
affectionate recognition. Man has meddled with it little more
than with the sky; the primeval spell is upon it, the hush,
the solitude of the old gods. The breath of powers invisible,
awful, rouse it to the sublimity of untamable energy; again,
hush it into deepest slumber. Night and day it is guarded,
seemingly, by wonder-working forces known to man only through
the uncertain medium of the imagination. The traveler who
looks upon Lake Tahoe for a few hours only learns little of
its rich variety. Like all things wild and shy, it must be
approached slowly and with patience.
But our sketch must not include more than the hasty glimpses
of a day. The stage conveyed us directly to the wharf, which
we reached at ten o'clock, having accomplished our fourteen
mile ride up the valley in about two and a half hours. As we
boarded the little steamer awaiting us and looked over its
side into the water below, the immediate shock of surprise
cannot be well described. Every pebble at the bottom showed as
distinctly as if held in the open hand. We had all seen clear
water before, but, as a severe but unscholarly sufferer once
said of his rheumatism, "never such as _these_." The
day being perfect, no breeze stirring, and the Lake without
a ripple, the gravelly bottom continued visible when we had
steamed out to a point where the water reached a depth of
eighty feet. Two gentlemen on board who had made a leisurely
trip round the world and were now on their way home to
England, remarked that they had seen but one sheet of water
(a lake in Japan) of anything like equal transparency. It is
presumed that they had not visited Green Lake, Colorado.
Our course lay along the California shore, toward its southern
extremity, the steamer stopping at several points for exchange
of mail. These stopping places are all summer-resorts, where
the guests, snugly housed at the base of the mountain-range,
divide the time between lounging or rambling under the shadow
of the tall pines and angling for the famous Tahoe trout in
the brightness of the open Lake. All looked inviting, but we
were not wholly enchanted until,
gliding past many a snowy peak, we suddenly changed course
and put into Emerald Bay. This little bay, or rather lake in
itself, about three miles in length, is the gem of the Tahoe
scenery. Through its narrow entrance, formed by perpendicular
cliffs some two thousand feet high, we moved on toward an
island of rock and a succession of flashing waterfalls beyond.
* * * * *
For a time the dazzling mountain-crests and glistening gorges
absorbed attention. So high, white, silent! We longed to
be upon the loftiest one, from the top of which can be seen
thirteen charming little mountain-lakes, midair jewels,
varying in feature according to the situation. Two of these
lakes, widely dissimilar in character, are but two miles
distant from Tallac House, a comfortable resort at the base of
the noble peak from which it takes its name.
But not even the crystal summit ridges delighted us as did
the changing waters in the path of the steamer. Following
immediately upon the transparency preserved to a depth of some
eighty feet, a blur passed over the surface. This changed
by imperceptible degrees to a light green. The green, again,
speedily deepened, shading into a light blue; and finally,
in deepest water (where the Lake is all but fathomless), the
color becomes so densely blue that we could not believe our
eyes. Indigo itself was outdone. Description fails; the blue
deep of Tahoe must be seen to be appreciated.
* * * * *
The ride from Glenwood back to Tahoe City was not so calm. The
Lake was considerably agitated; less so, however, than on
the following day, when, as we learned afterward, our little
steamer lost its rudder. Owing to the gorges in the mountains
upon either side, through which winds rush unexpectedly, Tahoe
has her dangers. She is a wild, wayward child, but thoroughly
lovable throughout all her frowns as well as smiles, equally
captivating in her moments of unconquerable willfulness as in
her seasons of perfect submission. Reaching Tahoe City at four
o'clock, we found the stage standing in readiness, and, with
a last, hasty look at the Lake, we were soon on our way by the
banks of the Truckee, back to town.
THE RESORTS OF LAKE TAHOE
In the body of this book I have given full account of some of the
resorts of the Tahoe region, including Deer Park Springs, Tahoe
Tavern, Fallen Leaf Lodge, Cathedral Park, Glen Alpine Springs,
Al-Tahoe, Lakeside, Glenbrook and Carnelian Bay.
But these are by no means all the resorts of the Bay, and each year
sees additions and changes. Hence I have deemed it well briefly to
describe those resorts that are in operation at the time this volume
It should be remembered that each resort issues its own descriptive
folder, copies of which may be obtained from the ticket offices of the
Southern Pacific Railway, the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation
Company, or the Peck-Judah Information Bureau, as well as from its
own office. All the resorts not already described in their respective
chapters are reached by steamer on its circuit around the Lake, as
The first place for the steamer after leaving the Tavern is Homewood,
a comparatively new resort, but already popular and successful,
conducted by Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Jost. This is six miles from Tahoe
City. The hotel was built in 1913 and has hot and cold water piped to
In addition there are cottages of two and three rooms, which, together
with single and double tents, provide for every taste and purse. The
tents are protected by flies, have solid boarded floors, are well
carpeted, and afford the fullest opportunity for out-door sleeping.
Homewood possesses a gently sloping and perfectly safe bathing
beach for adults and children. It also boasts a unique feature in
an open-air dancing platform, with old-fashioned music. It owns
its power-boat for excursions on the Lake, and its fleet of row-and
fishing-boats. A campfire is lighted nightly during the season, and
song and story cheer the merry hours along.
For circulars address A.W. Jost, Homewood, Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Three and a half to four miles beyond Homewood is McKinney's. This
is one of the oldest and best-established resorts on the Lake, having
been founded and long conducted by that pioneer of Lake Tahoe, J.W.
McKinney, as fully related elsewhere. It is now under the management
of Murphy Brothers and Morgan, and is essentially a place that is
popular with the crowd. The resort was built, as are all the
older places, to meet ever-increasing needs, the main hotel being
supplemented by numerous cottages and tents. McKinney's has a fine new
dancing-hall, dark-room for amateur photographers, iron and magnesia
springs, fleet of fishing- and motor-boats, free fishing-tackle, etc.,
and during the season its accommodation for two hundred guests is more
than taxed to the limit.
For circular address Murphy Brothers and Morgan, McKinney's, Lake
The next steamer stopping-place, about two hundred yards from
McKinney's is Moana Villa, the comfortable, unpretentious and homelike
resort conducted by Mr. and Mrs. R. Colwell, who are also the owners
of Rubicon Springs, reached by daily stage during the summer season,
nine miles from McKinney's.
Owning its own ranch in the mountains where milk, cream, butter, eggs,
poultry and game are plentiful, the table at Moana Villa is provided
with all the substantials and luxuries, cooked and served in home
One great advantage is offered to guests at Moana Villa, viz.: they
may divide their time between it and Rubicon Springs, as both are
under the same ownership and management.
The new Scenic Automobile Boulevard passes through the 700 acres of
delightful surroundings which belong to the place. The best fishing
grounds on Lake Tahoe are close by and numerous smaller mountain lakes
and streams afford excellent fly fishing. Deer, bear, grouse, quail,
ducks, geese and other game abound in the locality.
Hunting, fishing, bathing, boating, dancing, launch trips, beautiful
walks and drives and numerous games give ample opportunity for
amusement and recreation. The assembly hall and office is of logs.
Sleeping accommodations in cottages and tents or out of doors if
desired. Water is piped from a clear mountain spring, and an equipment
of up-to-date sanitary plumbing, bath and toilet appliances has been
For circular address R. Colwell, Moana Villa, Lake Tahoe, Calif.
* * * * *
A little beyond Moana Villa is Pomin's, the latest acquisition to
the resorts of the Lake, having been opened in 1914. The hotel is an
attractive, well-equipped, up-to-date structure, located on a knoll
150 feet from the Lake, and is surrounded by pines. Enclosed verandas,
open fires in lobby and dining-rooms, electric lights, hot and
cold water in all the rooms, tents and cottages are some of the
conveniences and luxuries.
There is an attractive club-house on the Lake Shore. For circular
address Frank J. Pomin, Pomin's, Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Emerald Bay Camp and Al-Tahoe have both been described in their
* * * * *
As explained in Chapter XVIII, Tallac House was built by E.J. (Lucky)
Baldwin. For many years it was the principal hotel on the Lake, but
what was a fine and superior hotel 25 years ago did not satisfy the
demands of modern patrons. Hence some years ago Mr. Baldwin planned to
erect a new hotel near the site of the old one. Unfortunately the work
was not much more than begun when he died and nothing has been done to
The hotel is now under the management of a San Francisco firm.
* * * * *
PINE FOREST INN
Built, as its name implies, in a pine grove of trees, this is one
of the older resorts of the Lake. It is unique in that it keeps open
throughout the year. Like the rest of the resorts of its class it
has hotel and dining-room with cottages and tents. Under its new
management a new casino has been built, and every room and cottage,
etc., equipped with electric lights. Especial attention is given to
camping-, fishing-, and hunting-parties. It is on the State Highway
between Placerville and Carson City, Nevada, and therefore makes all
provision for automobilists.
For circular address Lawrence & Comstock, Pine Forest Inn, Tallac
* * * * *
Located between Al Tahoe and Bijou is Camp Bell, conducted by Russell
W. Bell. The camp consists of tents and an open-air dining-room.
For circular address Russell W. Bell, 128 Edgewood Ave., San
* * * * *
This is another well-known Inn and Camp at the southeastern end of
the Lake. It is on the Lake Shore Drive near to the State Highway and
close to Freel's and the other mountain peaks of this group. The
beach in front of Bijou is of clean white sand, with a gentle slope,
offering excellent facilities for bathing.
For circular address W.F. Conolley, Bijou, Lake Tahoe, Calif.
* * * * *
Lakeside Park and Glenwood have each been described in their
* * * * *
This old-established and popular hot-springs resort is on the north
end of the Lake, beautifully situated on State-Line Point between
Crystal and Agate Bays. The hot springs and mineral swimming-pool here
have a tested quality which thousands of guests can testify to, and
they are annually patronized by a large number. The resort and springs
are under the management of the owner.
For circular, address F.B. Alverson, Brockways, Lake Tahoe, Calif.
* * * * *
On the shores of Agate Bay a new resort was started two years ago,
known as Tahoe Vista. It has a modern hotel, equipped for convenience
Bathing, boating and fishing in Agate Bay at Tahoe Vista is at its
best. The white sanded beach is broad and is safe to the smallest
child, the bay being shallow for a distance of five hundred feet
from its edge and affording a temperature to the water that is more
pleasant than to be found at any other part of the Lake.
The fame of Lake Tahoe's trout fishing is world renowned, and in
Agate Bay that sport is superior. One of the public fish hatcheries
is located near Tahoe Vista, insuring a constant supply of the most
favored varieties of game fish. Twenty-five thousand Eastern brook
trout were recently placed in Griff Creek, a lively little stream that
dances through the glens of Tahoe Vista.
To those who wish to own their own homes on the Lake Tahoe Vista
affords excellent opportunities in that lots are for sale at moderate
rates. A direct automobile road connects with Truckee, and also with
For circular address Manager Hotel, Tahoe Vista, Calif.
* * * * *
Carnelian Bay and its attractions are fully described in its own
* * * * *
This is the starting and the ending point of the steamer trip around
the Lake. It is a historic place, the first town founded on Lake
Tahoe, and destined ultimately to come into large importance. There is
a small hotel, together with housekeeping cottages, and free camping
For full particulars address Tahoe Development Co., Tahoe, Calif.
Titles of Books are in _Italics_.
Book chapters are in SMALL CAPITALS.
_American Journal of Science and Art_
River (see N. & S. Forks)
ANIMALS AND BIRDS OF T. REGION
AUTOMOBILE ROUTE, THE WISHBONE
Barker's Peak, Pass., etc.
Bigler, Lake Tahoe Named
BIRDS AND ANIMALS OF T. REGION
Bliss and Yerington
Bloody Canyon Glacier
Bricknell & Kinger
Browning, R. (q)
Buck Island Lake
CAMPING OUT TRIPS IN T. REGION
CARNELIAN BAY AND T. COUNTRY CLUB
Central Pacific Ry.
Chandler, Miss Katherine
CHAPARRAL OF T. REGION
Chase, Smeaton (q)
Cheney, John Vance (q)
Church, J.E., Jr., (q)
Coburn Station (see Truckee)
Country Club, Tahoe
Creeks of Lake T.
Dalles of Columbia River
De Young, M.H.
Edmonds, Mark W.
Fallen Leaf Glacier
Fire, How Indians Got
FISHING IN TAHOE LAKES
FLOWERS OF TAHOE REGION
_Conditions in Sierra Nevada_ (q)