GETTING BACK TO NATURE… TAHOE-STYLE
When you stay with East West Hospitality in North Lake Tahoe, nature is truly just outside your door. From exquisite, sapphire-hued Lake Tahoe, to the delightful, quaint lakes nearby, to the many rivers, creeks and waterfalls, Tahoe invites you to come play in all of her waters. You’ll also be struck by the lush forests of pine, cedar and aspen trees, spring and summertime’s cheerful wildflowers as well as the variety of animals who are native to this area.
Let us give you a brief tour of what’s what in Lake Tahoe/Truckee so that you can explore and enjoy our magnificent mountain setting.
A must-see on every traveler’s itinerary is a visit to Lake Tahoe. This utterly breathtaking alpine lake is located along the states of California and Nevada, with two-thirds in California. It is fed by 63 streams and two hot springs.
The Truckee River is Lake Tahoe’s only outlet and flows from the dam in Tahoe City east through Reno and eventually drains into Pyramid Lake in the Nevada desert. From there, it evaporates into the atmosphere.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest lake in the U.S. (Crater Lake in Oregon, at 1,932 feet, is deeper). It is the tenth deepest in the world. If Lake Tahoe was emptied, it would submerge California under 14.5” of water. There is enough water in Tahoe to supply everyone in the United States with 50 gallons of water per day for five years.
How Cold is Lake Tahoe?
It’s cold enough that any given day of the year – even the hottest days of summer – its crisp waters can take your breath away, but technically: Below 900 feet, lake water ranges between 41° F and 39° F. during July and August, surface temperatures can reach 68° F. Along the shoreline, shallow enclosed areas can warm even further. In the coldest months, the lake surface temperature drops as low as 39° F, but usually hovers near 41° F. Lake Tahoe does not freeze. Lake Tahoe is too massive and too deep to freeze, nor are the normal climatic conditions cold enough to cause freezing. Sources: Tahoe Environmental Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, League to Save Lake Tahoe, “Tahoe Place Names”.
You may be lucky enough to see a bear while in Tahoe. Ironically, its coloring may be brown or “cinnamon” and yet this is a Black Bear.
The Black Bear is approximately 4 – 7 feet from nose to tail, and 2 – 3 feet high at the withers. It has small eyes, rounded ears, a long snout, a large body, a short tail, and shaggy hair.
Unfortunately, Black Bears have become habituated to human food and garbage. While the chances of being injured or attacked are extremely low, meeting a bear is more likely because they are not very fearful of humans. Feeding bears is illegal (the fine is $1,000 or 6 months in jail) and increases the potential for property damage and the death of a bear!
One of the joys of being in the Sierra Nevada is co-existing with the spectacular animals who call Tahoe home. From birds to squirrels, raccoons to coyotes, deer to bear, wildlife is all around us. Check out the following guide of Tahoe’s most common creatures:
The Marmot, aka “woodchuck” or “groundhog”, is the largest of the ground squirrel. Its upper back is yellowish-brown, it has a buff-colored underbelly and suns itself on rocks in summertime.
Douglas Squirrel or Chickaree
One of several species of tree squirrels found in Tahoe, the chickaree is talkative, eats pinecones and has a dark-brown back and a bushy dark tail with silvery hair tips.
Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel
Often confused with a chipmunk, the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel has a broad white strip-bordered back, its stripes do not extend up to the cheeks, and it’s larger than a chipmunk.
This species of deer gets its name from unusually large ears that resemble mule ears. The Mule Deer is closely related to the White Tailed Deer which is not found in California.
Raccoons are common in California. They are medium sized animals 12 to 35+ lbs. and 20-40 inches long, including a bushy tail with 7-12 rings.
Coyotes look like small dogs. They have pointed ears, slender muzzle, and a bushy tail. Most coyotes are brownish grey in color with a light gray to cream-colored belly. You can hear their eerie howl at night.
This 3-needled pine is the most common tree in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Its bark is distinctive because of strong resins which give the bark a vanilla or pineapple odor.
This tree is similar to the Jeffrey Pine but not as common and you can tell them
apart by their cones. The Ponderosa cones have prickles which stick out while the Jeffrey’s cones have prickles that point inward (remember: “prickly Ponderosa” and “gentle Jeffrey”).
The Sugar Pine is the tallest, largest and most magnificent of all the pines. This 5-needled pine is easily recognized at a distance by the long, pendulous cones that hang down from the tips of the higher branches. These cones are terrific for holiday decorating.
This aromatic tree is often confused with a redwood tree because of its thick, shaggy red bark and large size. Its wood is used for making lead pencils.
The Lodgepole Pine has a very smooth, straight trunk. Indians used these trees as poles for their teepees while early settlers used them for railroad ties, mine timbers and house logs; today they are sometimes used as telephone poles.
The name references the quaking or trembling of the leaves that occurs in even a slight breeze due to the flattened petioles. It is a tall tree, usually 20- 25 meters (66 to 82 feet) at maturity, with a trunk 20-80 cm diameter. The leaves on these trees turn a gorgeous yellow color in autumn.
The first plant to flower in wet, mountain meadows. The waxy, yellow blossoms consist of five petals about ½ inches across, and grow in low mats.
Mountain Mule Ears
Mountain Mule Ears have white and yellow sunflower-like blossoms and are found on dry slopes and hillsides. The leaves look and feel like donkey ears with long oblong, velvet feeling leaves.
Indian Paint Brush
The burnt-orange Indian Paint Brush has long, lance-shaped leaves with distinctly wavy margins, as well as a covering of hairs. Stems are lightly branched, generally between 1 and 2 feet tall.
Dwarf Alpine Aster
These lavender, low growing daisy-like flowers adorn the borders of drying meadows, ponds or shaded forest edges. They bloom in August and into September.
The many species of Lupine are difficult to tell apart, but the group is easily recognized by the palmate leaf (leaflets originating from a common point, like the fingers of a hand). The flowers are usually blue and found in dry, sandy areas but some species are found in wet meadows.
Handsome red and yellow flowers hang at ends of branches above this bushy plant with several stems and many divided leaves. Flowers are about 5cm wide with 5 sepals, red and yellow sugar scoop shaped petals extending into spurs.
Source: USDA, Forest Service ‘Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’ www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu