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Area History


South Lake Tahoe has an incredibly rich history that dates back several hundred years. The first inhabitants were the Washoe Indians and the name they gave this area was, Da-Ow-A-Ga, or The Edge of the Lake. Early European settlers misunderstood what they were saying and as such, the name Tahoe stuck. Although a few other names were tried on for size as the town grew, South Lake Tahoe was the one that stuck.

Like most towns in this region, most of the early settlers were looking for fame, fortune and most importantly, gold. This particular part of California as well as the nearby Nevada border was home to some of the world’s most famous mines, including the Comstock mines as well as smaller claims from average miners. Gold was important but silver was discovered here as well and many people gained, and lost a fortune here.

After the gold rush settled down, mining remained an important part of the city, but more settlers came in with different interests and the area began to grow and become more civilized. Although there were numerous Old West style bar fights and bank robberies, the regular citizens were committed to building a life for themselves in this water rich and beautiful area.

Agriculture became more important and to this day it remains one of the main sources of income for many residents. After the Bonanza Road (or Highway 50 as it would later be called,) was built in the late 1800’s, traffic throughout the region increased and as such trade increased as well. As the west continued to develop, people on the coast began seeking a simpler way of life to enjoy for a vacation and word quickly spread about Lake Tahoe and the surrounding cities.

Logging became very important to the local economy in the later part of the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s. However, the lush forests quickly disappeared and for a time, it was uncertain where South Lake Tahoe would end up in the history books. However, the local residents hung on and managed to replenish the forests, and continue their expansions while still focusing on maintaining the natural beauty of the region. This was a hard lesson, but one that was obviously learned and acted upon.

In 1944, when the famous Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Saloon and Gambling Hall was built, the area became synonymous with luck, high-class resorts and incredible natural beauty. To this day, travelers come here to forget their troubles, and much like the early miners, to find their riches.

Today, the residents remain committed to environmental causes and making sure that their town matches the vision of the Washoe Indians. New developments are quite “green,” and the area has a strong background in sustainability and preserving the natural beauty of the area. This is perhaps one of the best places in the West to experience all the comforts of today’s high tech lifestyle, set in the beautiful backdrop of Mother Nature.