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Lake Profile

Tahoe (USA)

General Information

Description Tahoe is one of only seventeen ancient lakes on earth and is one of the deepest lakes on earth. Lake Tahoe is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains that straddle the state line between California and Nevada, and is a clear, deep alpine lake. The lake is almost 1,900 meters above sea level.
Country United States of America
Latitude 39° 0' 0" (39.0000)
Longitude -120° 0' 0" (-120.0000)
State California


 Largest Lakes of the World by Volume (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Ancient Lakes of the World
 Tahoe bathymetry map

Physical Characteristics

Description Lake Tahoe's clarity is partly due to the fact that the lake takes up most of its watershed (the ratio of basin to surface area is only 1.6). Most of the basin's rain and snow fall directly into the lake. In addition, the granitic and volcanic soils of the area are low in nutrients and erode slowly. As a result of all these factors, nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients that usually support algae growth in lakes are scarce.
Volume 156.00 km3
Surface Area 495.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 305.0 m
Maximum depth: 501.0 m
Residence Time 700.0 years
Age 1 million - 2 million years before present
Origin Tectonic
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 841.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 2:1


Economic Value
Major Cities

Watershed Management

Description According to Dr. Charles Goldman, who has conducted a 43 year study of Tahoe water clarity, a February 2003 report shows a marked improvement that Goldman hopes is evidence of the lake's capacity to recover. He said it is unknown whether several years of drought or the extensive restoration efforts underway in the basin in recent years are more responsible for the improvement.

A three year moratorium on development of shoreline property at Lake Tahoe to reduce runoff has created substantial controversy.

Issues Erosion and runoff into the lake has reduced Lake Tahoe's famous clarity. Since 1968 Tahoe's waters have lost more than 12 meters of transparency. The algae growth rate has doubled. Increases in human population and urbanization have put a severe strain on the remaining land's ability to filter out nutrients and pollutants. Dissolved oxygen in the deepest waters appears to be declining.

Biodiversity Conservation

Description The Lake Tahoe basin provides habitat for more than 290 species of animals and more than one thousand species of plants.
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
Species of Concern


Tahoe Rim Trail
Lake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition
Tahoe-Baikal Institute
California Tahoe Conservancy
Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network

LakeNet Programs

Environmental Exchanges Among Managers of Nine Lakes in Russia, Hungary and the U.S.
Exchanges Among Environmental Specialists on 20 Lakes in the Former Soviet Union and in Eastern & Central Europe
LakeNet 2000: A Dialogue on Participatory Watershed Management



Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Current status of Tahoe yellow cress, endangered plant
ILEC Database
Lake Tahoe Data Clearinghouse
Lake Tahoe Framework Study Project Management Plan (2002)
Special Report: Lake Tahoe Air Quality
US Supreme Court Decision in Lake Tahoe Land Planning Case


2/21/2013 - “Monster” Goldfish Multiplying in Lake Tahoe: Freshwater Species of the Week
10/17/2012 - Warming Lakes: Effects of Climate Change Seen on Lake Tahoe
1/13/2005 - UC Davis Study Shows Lake Tahoe Is Warming Up
9/15/2004 - Officials: Tahoe Cleaner After Engine Ban
9/15/2003 - Experts study effects of Sacramento pollution on Lake Tahoe
9/8/2003 - Suit filed to protect endangered Lake Tahoe plant
4/2/2003 - Kids learn to prevent water pollution at Tahoe
2/26/2003 - Clarity of Lake Tahoe reaches 10 year high
4/24/2002 - Supreme Court backs local government in clash at Lake Tahoe: big win for environmentalists
4/23/2002 - Complete text of Supreme Court decision on Lake Tahoe land planning case
4/16/2002 - MTBE jury faults major oil companies
4/16/2002 - Oil companies found liable for groundwater pollution at Lake Tahoe
1/6/2002 - High court's Lake Tahoe land use ruling will be felt nationwide (US)
6/28/2001 - Senate Appropriations Committee approves $20.4 million for Lake Tahoe restoration projects
2/16/2000 - Murky Future for Tahoe Waters
1/1/1994 - Scientists, planners strive to restore Lake Tahoe's biodiversity

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
California Tahoe Conservancy. Progress Report 1997.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.
Goldman, C. and A. Jassby, T. Powell. 1989. Interannual fluctuations in primary production: Meteroloigical forcing at two supalpine lakes. Limnol. Oceanogr. 34 (2). 310-323.
Herdendorf, C. 1982. Large lakes of the world. Journal of Great Lakes Research 8:379-412.
International Lake Environment Committee, the United Nations Environment Program and Environment Agency, Government of Japan. 1997. World Lakes Database.
Munawar, M. And R. Hecky. 2001. The Great Lakes of the World (GLOW) Food-web, Health & Integrity. Backhuys Publishers, The Netherlands.

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