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The Yosemite Valley, and the Mammoth Trees and Geysers of California (c1870)


VIII.—LAKE TAHOE.

“By the blue lake’s silver beach.” Longfellow.

Longfellow.

As we take this to be the most beautiful of the Californian lakes, we shall particularly direct the stranger’s attention to it. We cannot say that it lies exactly in the route of the tourist who “does” Yosemite, the Big Trees, and the Geysers; and then “makes tracks” for Oregon, or hurries homeward to New York or Boston. However, he who has an eye and a heart for Nature in her tranquil loveliness will hasten thither; and if he can decide upon no other course, will run by rail to Truckee City, and thence take Campbell and Burke’s stage to the Lake, a journey of 64 miles.

The road is excellent, and follows the north bank of the river Truckee, under the shade of melancholy boughs, or in the open sunshine, where the woods are broken up by breadths of rich meadow-laud.

According to the State Survey, the lake lies in two states and five counties. That is a statistical division. The boundary line between California and Nevada runs north and south, right across the lake, until it reaches it certain point therein. where it changes to a course 17 east of south. Hence it comes to pass that the counties of El Dorado and Placer (California), Washoo, Ormsby, and Douglas (Nevada), can all claim a share of the translucent waters of Lake Tahoe.

Physically speaking, the lake occupies the level of a rich valley of the Sierra Nevada, at the eastern base of its central ridge, a few miles north of the main trail to Carson Valley. It lies at an elevation of seine 5500 feet above the sea-level, and about 1500 feet above Carson Valley, foam which it is separated by a backbone of mountain about three to four miles wide.

The extreme southern latitude of the lake is 35 57'. It is bisected, or nearly so, by the 120th meridian of towest longitude; the western section belonging to California, the eastern to Nevada. It measures 22 miles in length, and 10 miles in breadth. The mountains encircling it vary in elevation from 1000 to 3000 and even 4000 feet in height, and are chiefly composed of weather-worn white granite, occasionally assuming the finest curves and sweepings. The shore is formed almost entirely of dazzlingly white granite sand. The slopes running up from this shore are clothed with densest pine wood; the waters of the lake are darkly, deeply, beautifully blue. Hence the reader may judge what a charming fantastic spectacle is made up with this combination of ultramarine and dark purple, and glowing white and emerald green.

In making the circuit of the lake—a sapphire in or silver setting—you meet with the following points of interest:—the Cave, in the hill-side, overhanging the waters at a height of 100 feet; the Hot Springs, just across the Nevada border; Cornelian Bay, an exquisite curve in the coast, where the water is of wonderful limpidity; Tahoe City, on the west side, where there are hotels, stores, and livery stables: Sugar Pine Point, a mountain spur covered with riotous of pine-wood; Emerald Bay, a kind of creek or inlet, two miles long, and broadening from 400 yards at the month to two miles at the upper extremity; and Lake Valley Creek, fed by mountain torrents and springs, and in its turn feeding Lake Tahoe.

So much for this very picturesque and charming lake. A glimpse of such a gem, of such a thing of beauty, is positively refreshing to a weary imagination, and revives and renovates it; but to ascertain all its beauties the traveller should take up his sojourn in Tahoe City, and daily sail in and about-the exquisite shores. Then, having filled his sketch-book, he may resort to rod and line; and when tired of catching trout, may shoulder his rifle, away among the mountain-woods, and satisfy himself with quail and grouse. Believe our words, O stranger! If you don’t see Tahoe, you will just miss one of the prettiest sights in this part of the continent. But we have a better opinion of you, and can rely that you will act according to our instructions.

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