The Tahoe Dam
With several restaurants, shops and recreational opportunities in the area, Tahoe City is a popular destination at the lake. Tucked away near the intersection of highways 89 and 28 is the Tahoe Dam.
At over 191 square miles, Lake Tahoe is California’s largest naturally occurring lake. However the dam at Tahoe City holds back an extra six feet of water, making the lake California’s 14th largest man-man reservoir as well.
Completed in 1913, the Tahoe Dam is part of the Newlands Project, a Bureau of Reclamation program that provides irrigation to the farms and ranches in Nevada’s Lahontan Valley. The dam is located at the head of the Truckee River, the lake’s only outlet.
At maximum capacity, the dam can retain an additional 732,000 acre-feet, or 238 billion gallons of water. The lake’s level is often expressed in terms above or below it’s natural rim. The natural lake level is 6,223 feet. Since 1900, the lake has dipped below that level 23 times. Currently it is approximately 1.5 feet above it’s natural rim.
Adjacent to the dam is the Gatekeeper’s Museum in William B. Layton Park. The museum features exhibits of the lake’s natural and cultural history. The park has several picnic tables and access to the beach.
Also in the area are several bike paths that cover the northwest portion of the lake, as well as down river to Reno and Sparks. The gentle waters of the Truckee River make this a popular spot for leisurely river-rafting adventures.
All of this activity makes Tahoe City a bustling area during the Summer. It can take some patients trying to find parking. But when you do, you will be rewarded with a pleasant Tahoe experience.
For more information, visit: https://www.northtahoemuseums.org
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
First “discovered” in 1852, Calaveras Big Tree Park is one of California’s longest-running tourist attractions. Located in the Sierras, 74 miles east of Stockton, this park is ideally located for a pleasant day-trip from the Central Valley.
The Discovery Tree as it’s known, was found in 1852, and was cut down a year later. The tree was 25 feet in diameter, and over 1,200 years old when it was felled. The stump has been used as a dance floor, a bar and even a two-lane bowling alley. These days, this impressive stump is still there, as is a section of the tree. Early visitors to the park carved their names into the trunk, many of which are still visible today.
Outrage over the destruction of this tree, and others like it, led to preservation efforts, which eventually resulted in the creation of Yosemite. The land comprising Calaveras Big Trees park remained in the hands of lumber companies until 1931, when it was acquired and preserved by the State of California.
This 6,500 acre park features miles of trails. There are two main groves of trees, home to several varieties such as giant sequoia, incense cedar, ponderosa and sugar pines.
The visitor center offers a museum and bookstore. There are tours and guided hikes available year round, and a plethora of children’s programs during the Summer.
For those wishing more than a day trip, there are 4 cabins and 120 campsites available.
For more information, visit: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=551
Sand Mountain is located twenty-five miles east of Fallon along Highway 50. This pile of sand is the largest single dune in the Great Basin. At over two miles in length, a mile wide and 600 feet in height, Sand Mountain is the wind-blown remains of the shoreline of Ancient Lake Lahonton, which dried up 9,000 years ago..
Sand Mountain is unique, in that it is one of 35 singing dunes in the world. This phenomenon occurs when the sand particles vibrate against each other, due to wind or other movement. The grains must be between .1 and .5 millimeters in size, and free of contaminants. The surface layer of sand must also be dry, with denser, wet sand below. As the sound of the particles rubbing against each other, it begins to resonate and is amplified by the wet sand deeper in the dune. The sound is described as a humming noise.
Although these dune produce noise, it can be hard to hear, as the area is a popular OHV area. Riders enjoy ripping up and down the dune on motorcycles, ATV’s, dune buggies and sand rails. Sand boarding and sailing are also non-motorized ways to enjoy the slopes.
For history buffs, the Sand Mountain Pony Express Station is located nearby. From 1860 until 1861, riders exchanged horses and rested between runs here. The remains of their rock-walled building are just south of the dune.
Even if you don’t have an off-highway-vehicle, a visit to Sand Mountain can be fun just to watch. There are picnic areas available, as well as camping. The site receives over 50,000 visitors a year. And the fun doesn’t stop once the sun goes down.
For more information, visit: https://www.blm.gov/visit/sand-mountain-recreation-area