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Lake Tahoe — A timeless travel treasure

When I was an undergrad biology student in the 1950s and as a grad student in the 1960s, Lake Tahoe was touted as the elite, most pristine lake in the world. At that time there were few buildings around the lake and environmentally conscious residents made major efforts to keep the lake clean, clear and beautiful.

Alas, much has changed in the past 50 to 60 years. However, in spite of the construction of residential and commercial buildings along the shoreline and throughout the watershed, Lake Tahoe remains one of the least polluted, high mountain lakes in the United States and around the world — and it is beautiful.

While driving the 72 miles of highway around the lake in mid-October, the beauty of Emerald Bay and the open water views emphasized the fact that in spite of the construction of thousands of buildings and the impact of millions of visitors, the lake and surrounding mountains are worth the time and effort to RV or day trip to this destination.

Online information suggests that much of the watershed is protected by the National Forest Service lands, but there has been a noticeable decrease in the purity of the lake.

There is little doubt that most visitors come to Lake Tahoe for other than ecological reasons. However, while driving clockwise around the lake, one passes alternatively through natural lands dominated by pines, fir trees, wet meadows and riparian areas, and then travels through many small towns and residential areas. Spectacular views of the surrounding high mountain peaks and of the fascinating clear, blue lake and shoreline are abundant.


This is the sixth largest freshwater lake in the United States and is surpassed in size only by the five Great Lakes. Many people claim that the drive encircling Lake Tahoe is one of the most scenic 70-mile drives in the world. It certainly offered many gorgeous, spectacular and majestic views on the special day in October that I visited the area.

Tourists may savor the natural scenic views while others may focus on the expansive, expensive and impressive homes of the rich and famous which have commanding views of the Lake. With temperatures ranging from 30 to 50 F in October, there are fewer RVs in the parks and campgrounds that during the summer peak season.

Ten or more RV campgrounds are located on private, state and federal lands near the lake. Most are described in detail online. Winter is actually the most popular and busy season for the Tahoe region. Skiing and other winter sports attract visitors from major cities in California and Nevada. We took a side trip to Hope Valley, south of the lake, in hopes of seeing brilliant fall foliage. Alas, we were a bit too late, but did see some fine aspen in color.

Reasons, purposes, goals and objectives abound for the millions of visitors who travel to Lake Tahoe as a destination. Hiking, skiing, water sports, snow sports, awesome scenic views, pleasant mountain climate, casino action and relaxation are primary reasons for traveling to this high mountain lake, nestled in the basin at 6250-foot elevation.

About Dr. Bob Gorden

Dr. Bob Gorden is an RVer, hiker and writer. He has a PhD in microbial ecology from the University of Georgia in Athens. He is a retired research scientist from the University of Illinois Natural History Survey. He has owned and operated more than 55 RVs of various types, and has visited every state, except Hawaii, in his RV. He also traveled by RV in New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. He currently owns and travels in a 1978 GMC 26-foot Class A and 2013 Thor ACE 30.1 Class A motorhome. He has a compelling desire to be “On the Road Again!”

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