Lake Tahoe History & Museums: Lake Tahoe California Museums & History

Lake Tahoe
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Lake Tahoe has that enticing flavor of the American West explorations, including within it both California and Nevada history. Looking back on the stories of the first expeditions to the West, the gold rush days and the Olympics of 1960, brings us history that we often don't read about in books.

Lake Tahoe Museums and Historic Sites

Lake Tahoe History

Early on, Lake Tahoe history covers the original inhabitants of the region, the Native Americans who lived in the valleys of Carson and Truckee Rivers and surrounding areas. The Washoe tribe lived and hunted in this beautiful forestland.

Discovered by Kit Carson and Sean Heinecke on an 1844 exploration looking for the Bonaventura River, they were on Red Lake Peak in what is known as the Carson Pass, when they first spotted Lake Tahoe. Heinecke named it Lake Bonpland, which was soon changed by another, John Calhoun Johnson, who was a Sierra explorer and saw the lake as he delivered mail in the far reaches of the mountains. It wasn't until 1862 that the US Department of Interior gave it the name of Tahoe. It was 1945 before that name became official.

In 1858, discovery of a huge silver load 15 miles to the east of Lake Tahoe Basin sparked a huge influx of those in search of wealth, and further growth occurred when the 1960 Olympics made its base in Squaw Valley, thus putting Lake Tahoe on the map. After that time, the area became a popular vacation destination, with many making their summer homes in the forests around the lake.

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Other Museums & History Resources

Tahoe Maritime Museum

The Tahoe Maritime Museum is a great place to learn about Lake Tahoe's maritime history.