4 Fun Things You May Not Know About Lake Tahoe

By: Alex Silgalis

Once you drive over any mountain summit and drop into the Lake Tahoe Basin, you’ll be hooked. The massive blue waters of Lake Tahoe, cupped by the Sierra Nevada, are presented to you like a gift. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, the views will re-energize you. To make your trip even more entertaining, here’s four fun & wacky things you may not know about Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe… Was Almost Called Lake Bigler?!?

Lake Tahoe Mount Tallac
Lake Tahoe Mount Tallac in Background | Photo: Rachid Dahnoun

Can you imagine this beautiful lake being called anything other than Lake Tahoe? Well, back in the 1800s, there were heated discussions on what it should be named. In 1844, it was called Lake Bonpland after a French botanist. Then for a short spell after, it was Mountain Lake. Subsequently in 1854, the California’s then-governor John Bigler and the legislature decided to officially name it “Lake Bigler.” And, if Mark Twain had it his way, it would’ve stayed Lake Bigler. In his words from the Territorial Enterprise:

“I hope some bird will catch this Grub the next time he calls Lake Bigler by so disgustingly sick and silly a name as “Lake Tahoe.”

Luckily, someone by the name of Degroot suggested “Tahoe”, a Native American name meaning “big water.” It took decades before the name finally stuck, but thanks to an action in 1945 by the California State Legislature, the feud was finally laid to rest.

A Monster Named Tessie

Tahoe Tessie Lake Monster
Tahoe Tessie | Photo: @cityofsouthlaketahoe

We’ve all heard the stories of the Loch Ness monster. And with big blue being, well BIG, it’s only right that it has one of its own. Allegedly it’s a 60-foot-long serpentine “monster” named Tessie. Tahoe Tessie that is. This isn’t a new story either. The local Indian tribes have long spoken of monsters in the lake and some other theories point to a giant sturgeon perhaps inhabiting the dark areas of the water. Even in the 1970’s, it is said that Jacques Cousteau did a deep-water dive & emerged from the water claiming, “the world isn’t ready for what was down there.”

Fannette Island Is Thought To Be Haunted

Fannette Island at Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe
Fannette Island at Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe | Photo: @alpinextrm

Way back in 1862, Ben Holladay Jr. built a cozy five room resort on Emerald Bay & hired Captain Richard Barter. For nearly a decade, he took care of the grounds and lived a hermit’s life enduring the cold wintry days. He survived a few different mishaps getting back to Emerald Bay including one where he lost two toes. But alas in October 1873, he perished while coming back from South Lake Tahoe. To this day on the coldest of nights amid the mist of Emerald Bay, it is said you can see his ghost, wandering Fannette Island looking for his missing crypt.

Lahontan Cutthroat – The Return of THE Monster Trout

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Lake Tahoe
Lahontan Cutthroat Trout | Photo: Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office

When talking about trout, anything above 5 pounds is considered HUGE except for one native fish that now exists in Lake Tahoe & the surrounding lakes – the Lahontan Cutthroat trout. The giant trout, previously residing in these waters, was thought to be extinct for nearly a century. With careful work by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these “relics” of the Pleistocene era have been released back into the waters of Tahoe. If Pyramid Lake is any indicator, it might be only a matter of time before anglers will be catching native cutthroats weighing in at 40 pounds. Now THAT is a real monster fish story!

We hope these four fun things make you smile, laugh, and realize just how special Lake Tahoe is. So, the next time you talk to a friend about “big water”, you might want to add a “Did you know…” to the conversation.

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