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[Physical, Climate, Air Temperatures & Rain]

Tahoe is a Washoe Indian word, generally believed to mean "Big Water" or "Big Blue". While no exact definition has ever been agreed upon, many have interpreted the word to mean many things. Mark Twain, while visiting Lake Tahoe in his earlier days, was said to have defined Tahoe as "Grasshopper Soup". Others have said the word means "Strong Water" or "Whiskey". Whatever the meaning, the word Tahoe has long had a mystical connotation, which is appropriate in describing the overwhelming beauty of the Lake.

Contrary to popular belief, Lake Tahoe is not of volcanic origin but formed by faulting fractures in the earths crust over several million years. A vault on the eastern margin is know as the Carson Range, while the Sierra Nevada rose out of a shallow sea on the western side. Fed by snow, rain and rivers the lake rose until it found an outlet near the present town of Truckee. Several active volcanoes poured lava into the basin eventually damning the outlet and the lake rose several hundred feet higher then the present level.

Lake Tahoe's water does not end up in the ocean. The Truckee river, its only outlet, flows east through Reno and eventually drains into Pyramid Lake in the Nevada desert and eventually evaporates back into the atmosphere. Pyramid Lake has no known outlets, though there are legends that indicate otherwise.


  • Elevation:
    • The average surface elevation is 6,225 feet above sea level making it the highest lake of it’s size in the United States.
  • Location:
    • Lake Tahoe is located on the California/Nevada border, 198 miles northeast of San Francisco, 98 miles east of Sacramento and 58 miles southwest of Reno, Nevada.
  • Size:
    • Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long, 12 miles wide, and 72 miles of shoreline. Lake Tahoe’s greatest depth of 1,645 feet makes it the third deepest lake in North America and the tenth deepest in the world.
  • Volume:
    • The water in Lake Tahoe could cover a flat area the size of California by 14 inches. This is enough to provide everyone in the United States with 50 gallons of water per day for 5 years. And believe it or not, the amount of water that evaporates from the surface of Lake Tahoe every year could supply a city the size of Los Angeles for 5 years.
  • Clarity:
    • Tahoe’s waters are among the purest in the world at 99.7% pure. A white dinner plate can be seen 120 feet below the surface with little trouble.
  • Temp:
    • During the summer months the upper 12 feet of water forms a layer that can warm to 68 degrees F, but below depths of 700 feet during the winter the temperature remains a constant 39 degrees F.


  • Snow:
    • Lake Tahoe gets an average of 215.4 inches of snowfall, or a little under 18 feet. Upper elevations can get between 300 and 500 inches per year.
  • Winds:
    • Winds are generally mild, 10-15 mph, out of the west and northwest. During storm periods they can average 25-35 mph.
      Sun: The sunshine probability for the Basin is 84%, with at least 307 days of sun per year.
  • Dress:
    • Sweaters and jackets are almost always necessary in the evenings. Winter means heavy jackets and warm boots and clothes, while summer days can be spent in shorts and T-shirts.
  • Population:
    • In 1950 there were 2,500 permanent residents in the Lake Tahoe Basin. By 1986 that number had risen to 60,000 with 17,500 in Nevada and 42,500 in California.
  • Visitors:
    • There were approximately 12,000,000 visitor days recorded in the basin in 1986, or an average of 33,000 per day. However, the visitor population can exceed 100,000 on peak weekends.







18 27 36 6.13"
April 27 39 51 2.10"
July 44 61 78 0.26"
October 32 45 58 1.90"
Total Year 30 43 55 30.90"

* Temperatures are Degrees Fahrenheit


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