Tahoe is a national treasure - why not a national park?

By: League to Save Lake Tahoe

With snow-capped peaks, soaring pine trees, and gin-clear water, Lake Tahoe has earned its nicknames: ocean in the sky, Caribbean in the mountains, Jewel of the Sierra. So, why don’t we list Tahoe alongside Yellowstone and Yosemite?

Clear blue water of Lake Tahoe

To answer that question, let’s take a trip back 160 years. In 1859, a massive silver discovery in the mountains of Nevada kicked off a mining rush that eventually gave the Silver State its nickname. Over the next twenty years, the tall, ancient trees that covered the Tahoe Basin’s slopes were nearly all cut down and shipped to the silver fields to build ever-deeper mine shafts. 

Old time photo - Workers pose with logs headed for one of Tahoe’s lumber mills
Workers pose with logs headed for one of Tahoe’s lumber mills. — Photo: Stephen Gennerich / Western Nevada Historic Photo Collection
Old time photo - Lumber milled at Glenbrook on the shores of Lake Tahoe is offloaded at Spooner Summit on its way to Nevada
Lumber milled at Glenbrook on the shores of Lake Tahoe is offloaded at Spooner Summit on its way to Nevada.
Photo: Carleton Watkins / Western Nevada Historic Photo Collection

There were multiple attempts from the 1880s to the 1930s to designate Tahoe a national park, but each one fell short. The history of logging, combined with the development of tourism and private property ownership, left Tahoe lacking the “pristine” natural characteristics required to become a national park.

Old time photo - Tourists disembark the S.S. Tahoe and S.S. Nevada at the Glenbrook Lodge
Tourists disembark the S.S. Tahoe and S.S. Nevada at the Glenbrook Lodge. Photo: Stephen Gennerich / Western Nevada Historic Photo Collection

Fast forward to today. You can do things in Tahoe you can’t at Grand Teton or Glacier, like resort skiing, boating, golfing or hiking with your dog. But because Tahoe isn’t a national park, it means there isn’t an army of park rangers, bus drivers, maintenance and janitorial staff to remind you to avoid sensitive natural areas, and clean up the wrappers left after your picnic.

Every visitor can help Keep Tahoe Blue with small, simple actions. We call that being a #TahoeBlueGooder. Here’s how:

Experience Tahoe on foot or by bike, instead of from the car. The slower you go, the more beautiful it is.

Bikers on bike trail at edge of Lake Tahoe
Photo: League to Save Lake Tahoe

Bring a trash bag on your daily adventures, and carry out everything you carried in (yes, even leftovers). Then go one step further – if you see litter ruining your view, pick it up and throw it away. Share photos of your good deeds on social media with #TahoeBlueGooder to inspire others to follow your example.

family in woods picking up trash
Photo: League to Save Lake Tahoe

The free Citizen Science Tahoe app has even more quick, easy and impactful ways to protect while you play. Compete against friends and family to see who can do the most to Keep Tahoe Blue, and feel good that you left the Lake better than you found it.

Two easy steps to becoming a #TahoeBlueGooder are 1) taking the traveler responsibility pledge, then 2) letting it guide your Tahoe experience.

Free Citizen Science Tahoe App
Photo: UC Davis

Keep Tahoe Blue has even more events, activities, programs and opportunities for you to be part of the solution. With your help, Tahoe will be just as beautiful the next time you visit.

Couple watching sunset on Lake Tahoe
Photo: @loloandthelens
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