Finally had a chance to explore Lake Tahoe. The place has power, for sure. The whole lake’s contained in a high altitude basin. You’re 6000 feet above sea level on the beach. Aside from the southeastern corner where Nevada and California meet, and again on the northwestern corner, same thing, there’s not much development. Can’t be, the walls are too steep. The lake is deep, spooky deep: 1,644 feet or half a kilometer, at deepest. And cold.

Scuba diving in a lake at high altitude is a particular challenge. In July, 2011, two divers were exploring the lake using a “mixed gas” method:

Mixed gas divers can safely descend to about 350 feet without suffering nitrogen narcosis, or “rapture of the depths,” among other problems. Conventional scuba divers have to stop at about 100 feet.

While exploring, the mixed-gasers found a well-preserved body just kinda sitting there, underwater. It was a diver who’d died while diving in the lake seventeen years before in 1994.

Byers said those in the diving group were startled to see [the deceased’s] motionless form. “It was pretty scary for them. They were wondering, ‘What’s this person doing down here?’” he said. He did not identify members of the group.

The surprising condition of the body is attributable to the 35-degree water and the increased pressure at the 265-foot depth, Byers said.

All that from a 2011 LA Times article by Bob Pool, who notes some other myths of the lake:

Some Tahoe locals insist that bodies of boaters and swimmers who drowned in Lake Tahoe have turned up Pyramid Lake and vice versa. They insist the tunnels are the result of volcanic activity.

“Lava tube connections between Lake Tahoe and other lakes are an urban myth,” Byers said.

Other stories about oddities beneath Lake Tahoe have been debunked by experts. Some in the region insist that famed diver and naturalist Jacques Cousteau explored the lake in a mini-submarine in the mid-1970s and emerged pale and shaken.

Asked what he’d seen and filmed on the lake bottom, Cousteau reportedly replied, “The world isn’t ready for what’s down there.”

Depending on who is telling the story, Cousteau either encountered a Loch Ness-type monster that locals have dubbed “Tahoe Tessie” or came upon a bunch of dead people.


Tales persist that a “longtime Tahoe fire chief” responded to a drowning call and found the body of a well-preserved Native American girl, fully clothed in a 19th century ceremonial dress, floating in the lake.


Cousteau never explored the lake. Some say his grandson, Philippe Cousteau Jr., visited there, but only for a 2002 speaking engagement. And authorities say they have used sonar and mini-subs to map the lake’s bottom and never found such a graveyard. Nobody knows the name or affiliation of the supposed “longtime Tahoe fire chief.”

On Emerald Bay is the grand and tragic house of Vikingsholm, built with local materials in a single summer by 200 craftsmen.

Here is Mark Twain, in Roughing It, on Tahoe:

Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?—it is the same the angels breathe. I think that hardly any amount of fatigue can be gathered together that a man cannot sleep off in one night on the sand by its side. Not under a roof, but under the sky; it seldom or never rains there in the summer time. I know a man who went there to die. But he made a failure of it. He was a skeleton when he came, and could barely stand. He had no appetite, and did nothing but read tracts and reflect on the future. Three months later he was sleeping out of doors regularly, eating all he could hold, three times a day, and chasing game over mountains three thousand feet high for recreation. And he was a skeleton no longer, but weighed part of a ton. This is no fancy sketch, but the truth. His disease was consumption. I confidently commend his experience to other skeletons.

Others report difficulty sleeping, perhaps due to the altitude. But they were sleeping indoors.

Seen from the lake, the casinos at Stateline, Nevada look like Chernobyl or something from The World Without Us, like they got abandoned and a forest grew around them.

Shouldn’t there be a dock there? Maybe the focus is gambling only on that part of the shore. Still, the Encore in Chelsea, Mass has a nice casino boat that’ll take you to/from Boston’s Long Wharf. Could be an idea for Stateline.

You get the sense the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the Forest Service keeps it tight on development.

Larry Ellison has, I’m told, purchased the old Cal Neva in Crystal Bay, once part owned by Frank Sinatra. He’s also buying the currently running casino-hotel Hyatt Regency in Incline Village, a town famous as a tax haven.

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