Why So Blue, Lake Tahoe?

By: League to Save Lake Tahoe

Mark Twain famously wrote about his adventures at Lake Tahoe. That’s no secret. In fact, if you’ve spent more than 15 minutes at the Lake, you’ve probably paged through a magazine, glanced at a souvenir, or read the back of a menu that includes his famous first impression of Tahoe.

Mark Twain statue in Kings Beach.
A friendly Mark Twain statue gives a reader some company in Kings Beach. — Photo: FORE Magazine

To a young Samuel Clemens (Twain’s real name) looking down from high atop a mountain pass in the 1860s, Lake Tahoe was “the fairest picture the whole Earth affords.” The Lake’s deep blue color likely had a lot to do with that glowing review.

Lake Tahoe
“The fairest picture the whole Earth affords.” — Photo: peterspain.com

Every year, an estimated 15 million people come to Lake Tahoe. The Tahoe Basin’s massive expanse of blue water is no doubt a big part of why they come too. But what makes that breathtaking water so blue?

Tahoe’s clean air and water are the keys to the Lake’s dazzling cobalt color. The surface of Lake Tahoe is blue in part because it’s reflecting the sky, but there is more to this phenomenon. Water as crystal clear as Tahoe’s absorbs red light and reflects the rich blue color that we all see. So actually, Tahoe is just as blue as it is clear. And it takes a lot of work to keep it that way.

Aerial view of Lake Tahoe
Tahoe’s deep, cobalt blue. — Photo: Keep Tahoe Blue

One of the earliest champions for protecting the Lake’s water quality was the League to Save Lake Tahoe, well known for their iconic sticker and slogan “Keep Tahoe Blue.” Since 1957, the League has stuck to that same mission: protecting Tahoe’s clarity, ecological health and beautiful blue hue for future generations. As you might expect, it’s a pretty big job, and they can always use a helping hand. That’s where you come in.

Go get yourself a Keep Tahoe Blue sticker, available at more than a hundred local businesses. Do something Lake-friendly, like picking up litter, or walking and biking instead of driving. Then share your good deed or someone else’s on social media with #TahoeBlueGooder. Your effort to leave Tahoe better than you found it might inspire someone else to do the same.

Family in forest picking up trash
Tahoe Blue-Gooders removing litter from a trail in South Lake Tahoe. — Photo: Heavenly Mountain Resort

If each of us leaves the Lake a little bit better than we found it, we can Keep Tahoe Blue for next year, next decade and next century.

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