Lake Tahoe NAM-02

Riparian Nation(s) USA
Surface Area 499 km2 Mean Depth 313 m Volume 156 km3
Shoreline 120 km Catchment Area 841 km2 Residence Time 700 yr
Frozen Period None Mixing Type Monomictic Morphogenesis/Dam Natural
Related Info/Site


Lake Tahoe is located on the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range at about 1,900 m above sea level, and is surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks. The lake water is extremely clear. The climate of the lake basin is characterized by long but rather mild winters and short, dry summers. The splendid scenery around the lake attracts many visitors.

The drainage basin is comparatively small as compared with other lakes, with the result that the residence time of lake water is very long. Tahoe soils are derived from volcanic or granitic parent material, and are easily eroded during heavy rain. Thus surface flows from the lake's watershed carry a continuous load of nutrients and sediments to the lake. In addition, the recent and rapid increase of visitors and residents has caused some eutrophication, though the nutrient level of the lake is still quite oligotrophic. In order to avoid further environmental disruption, the bi- state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was established in 1970, and has worked out a plan for land use, transportation, conservation, recreational development and public services. It is well known as one of the most successful environmental management and conservation efforts in the United States.

Photo of Lake Tahoe
Photo: Y. Watanabe