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Community History and Profile

American explorers

The original inhabitants of the Basin, the Washoe Indians have long considered the shores of Lake Tahoe to be a sacred site. In 1844, American explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson first viewed the lake from Red Lake Peak, located south of the basin. The lake, now known as Lake Tahoe, went through several name changes. It was officially labeled Lake Tahoe, based upon the Indian name meaning “big water,” in 1945 by journalist Henry Degroot.

By the 1860s, the Tahoe Basin was pushing towards the town of Truckee due to the commerce spurred by the silver mines of Virginia City. An extensive logging industry was established at the lake in order to supply this boom. Sadly, environmentalism was not a concept of the time resulting in hillside scarring due to clear cutting that would forever change the terrain and appearance of the Basin. As logging and mining dwindled, tourism developed with a rush to build fancy resorts featuring dance halls and gambling in the late 1800s.


The next major boom to affect the Lake came in the form of the 1960 Olympics, held at Squaw Valley on the northwest side of the lake. Small motels were erected on the South Shore in order to provide the necessary lodging, resulting in a new type of tourism as the sport of skiing became and remains a popular family endeavor.

Today, outdoor recreation and gaming continue to be the basis of the local economy. It provides ample options for visitors who travel here from all around the world to take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The community of South Lake Tahoe is actually comprised of the city of South Lake Tahoe and the smaller areas in Douglas County on the Nevada side known as Zephyr Cove, Kingsbury Grade and Round Hill. The community of Meyer’s in El Dorado County on the California side is also included with a concentration of businesses, including a new conference center, hotels and casinos located at the stateline.

Additional historic information:

Tallac Historic Site:
150-acre site comprised of three historical estates. Features seasonal events, wedding location, hiking & picnic facilities and spectacular views.
(530) 541-5227

Vikingsholm Castle:
Exceptional example of Scandinavian architecture located along the shores of Emerald Bay.
(530) 525-7277

South Lake Tahoe Historical Society & Museum:
Devoted to preserving the heritage of Lake Tahoe.
(530) 541-5458

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