USGS Lake Tahoe Data Clearinghouse U.S. Geological Survey Lake Tahoe Data Clearinghouse The National Map Geography Western Geographic Science Center

Geography & History Overview

Lake Tahoe DEM with labels. Eagle Lake, Lake Tahoe.
Eagle Lake in Lake Tahoe Basin
by Alexander Evans.
Locator map of Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe is admired for its great depth and clarity and beautiful alpine surroundings. Most of the terrain is mountainous, limiting development mainly to relatively flat lying areas along tributary streams. During the last half-century, increased human activity in the lake basin has caused the lake's clarity to decrease at a rate of about 1 foot per year (30 cm/yr). Major recreational activities within the basin include casino gaming in Nevada, alpine and cross-country skiing, golfing, water sports, hiking, fishing, camping, and bicycling. Recognizing the threat to Lake Tahoe, the footer image. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), the footer image. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the footer image. Tahoe Research Group of the University of California, Davis (TRG) are working to keep Lake Tahoe beautiful. They are monitoring sediment and important nutrients flowing into the lake from the streams and ground-water aquifers in the basin.

Lake Tahoe is located along the border of California and Nevada. About one-third of the basin is in Nevada and two-thirds is in California. The basin is bounded by the Sierra Nevada to the west and the Carson Range to the east. The Lake Tahoe Basin was formed by geologic block (normal) faulting about 2 to 3 million years ago. The down-dropping of the Lake Tahoe Basin and the uplifting of the adjacent mountains resulted in dramatic topographic relief in the region. Mountain peaks rise to more than 10,000 ft (3,048 m) above sea level. The surface of Lake Tahoe has an average elevation of about 6,225 ft (1,897 m).

Lake Tahoe was occupied by the footer image. Washoe Tribe for many centuries. The Washoe Indians were hunting and fishing in the area long before General John C. Fremont encountered it in 1844 during his exploration of the Far West. Since then, public appreciation of Lake Tahoe has grown. Efforts were made during the 1912, 1913, and 1918 congressional sessions to designate the basin as a national park but were unsuccessful.

For more information about Lake Tahoe, please see Facts About Lake Tahoe.

For additional information, please see footer image.


Digital Data


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