Lake Tahoe is the largest lake at its altitude - twenty-three miles long by thirteen broad, 6225 feet above the level of the sea - with but one exception in the world. Then, too, it closely resembles the sky in its pure and perfect color. One often experiences, on looking down upon it from one of its many surrounding mountains, a feeling of surprise, as if the sky and earth had somehow been reversed and he was looking down upon the sky instead of the earth.

And, further, Lake Tahoe so exquisitely mirrors the purity of the sky; its general atmosphere is so perfect, that one feels it is peculiarly akin to the sky.

Mark Twain walked to Lake Tahoe in the early sixties, from Carson City, carrying a couple of blankets and an ax. He suggests that his readers will find it advantageous to go on horseback. It was a hot summer day, not calculated to make one of his temperament susceptible to fine scenic impressions, yet this is what he says:

    We plodded on, two or three hours longer, and at last the Lake burst upon us - a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher still. It was a vast oval, and one would have to use up eighty or a hundred good miles in traveling around it. As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords!

And there you have it! Articulate or inarticulate, something like this is what every one thinks when he first sees Tahoe, and the oftener he sees it, and the more he knows it the more grand and glorious it becomes. It is immaterial that there are lakes perched upon higher mountain shelves, and that one or two of them, at equal or superior altitudes, are larger in size. Tahoe ranks in the forefront both for altitude and size, and in beauty and picturesqueness, majesty and sublimity, there is no mountain body of water on this earth that is its equal.

Why such superlatives in which world-travelers generally - in fact, invariably - agree? There must be some reason for it. Nay, there are many. To thousands the chief charm of Lake Tahoe is in the exquisite, rare, and astonishing colors of its waters. They are an endless source of delight to all who see them, no matter how insensible they may be, ordinarily, to the effect of color. There is no shade of blue or green that cannot here be found and the absolutely clear and pellucid quality of the water enhances the beauty and perfection of the tone.

One minister of San Francisco thus speaks of the coloring:

    When the day is calm there is a ring around the Lake extending from a hundred yards to a mile from the shore which is the most brilliant green; within this ring there is another zone of the deepest blue, and this gives place to royal purple in the distance; and the color of the Lake changes from day to day and from hour to hour. It is never twice the same - sometimes the blue is lapis lazuli, then it is jade, then it is purple, and when the breeze gently ruffles the surface it is silvery-gray. The Lake has as many moods as an April day or a lovely woman. But its normal appearance is that of a floor of lapis lazuli set with a ring of emerald.

The depth of the water, varying as it does from a few feet to nearly or over 2000 feet, together with the peculiarly variable bottom of the Lake, have much to do with these color effects. The lake bottom on a clear wind-quiet day can be clearly seen except in the lowest depths. Here and there are patches of fairly level area, covered either with rocky bowlders, moss-covered rocks, or vari-colored sands. Then, suddenly, the eye falls upon a ledge, on the yonder side of which the water suddenly becomes deep blue. That ledge may denote a submarine precipice, a hundred, five hundred, a thousand or more feet deep, and the changes caused by such sudden and awful depths are beyond verbal description.

Many of the softer color-effects are produced by the light colored sands that are washed down into the shallower waters by the mountain streams. These vary considerably, from almost white and cream, to deep yellow, brown and red. Then the mosses that grow on the massive bowlders, rounded, square and irregular, of every conceivable size, that are strewn over the lake bottom, together with the equally varied rocks of the shore-line, some of them towering hundreds of feet above the water - these have their share in the general enchantment and revelry of color.

Emerald Bay and Meek's Bay are justly world-famed for their triumphs of color glories, for here there seem to be those peculiar combinations of varied objects, and depths, from the shallowest to the deepest, with the variations of colored sands and rocks on the bottom, as well as queer-shaped and colored bowlders lying on the vari-colored sands, that are not found elsewhere. The waving of the water gives a mottled effect surpassing the most delicate and richly-shaded marbles and onyxes. Watered-silks of the most perfect manufacture are but childish and puerile attempts at reproduction, and finest Turkish shawls, Bokhara rugs or Arab sheiks' dearest-prized Prayer Carpets are but glimmering suggestions of what the Master Artist himself has here produced.

There are not the glowing colors of sunrises and sunsets; but they are equally sublime, awe-inspiring and enchanting. There are Alpine-glows, and peach-blooms and opalescent fires, gleams and subtle suggestions that thrill moment by moment, and disappear as soon as seen, only to be followed by equally beautiful, enchanting and surprising effects, and with it all, is a mobility, a fluidity, a rippling, flowing, waving, tossing series of effects that belong only to enchanted water - water kissed into glory by the sun and moon, lured into softest beauty by the glamour of the stars, and etheralized by the quiet and subtle charms of the Milky Way, and of the Suns, Comets and Meteors that the eye of man has never gazed upon.

There is one especially color-blessed spot. It is in Grecian Bay, between Rubicon Point and Emerald Bay. Here the shore formation is wild and irregular, with deep holes, majestic, grand and rugged rocks and some trees and shrubbery. Near the center of this is a deep hole, into which one of the mountain streams runs over a light-colored sandy bottom where the water is quite shallow. Around are vari-colored trees and shrubs, and these objects and conditions all combine to produce a mystic revelation of color gradations and harmonies, from emerald green and jade to the deepest amethystine or ultra-marine. When the wind slightly stirs the surface and these dancing ripples catch the sunbeams, one by one, in changeful and irregular measure, the eyes are dazzled with iridescences and living color-changes covering hundreds of acres, thousands of them, as exquisite, glorious and dazzling as revealed in the most perfect peacock's tail-feathers, or humming-bird's throat. Over such spots one sits in his boat spell-bound, color-entranced, and the ears of his soul listen to color music as thrilling, as enchanting as melodies by Foster and Balfe, minuets by Mozart and Haydn, arias by Handel, nocturnes and serenades by Chopin and Schumann, overtures by Rossini, massive choruses and chorals by Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn, fugues by Bach, and concertos by Beethoven.

The blue alone is enough to impress it forever upon the observant mind. Its rich, deep, perfect splendor is a constant surprise. One steps from his hotel, not thinking of the Lake - the blue of it rises through the trees, over the rocks, everywhere, with startling vividness. Surely never before was so large and wonderful a lake of inky blue, sapphire blue, ultra-marine, amethystine richness spread out for man's enjoyment. And while the summer months show this in all its smooth placidity and quietude, there seems to be a deeper blue, a richer shade take possession of the waves in the fall, or when its smoothness is rudely dispelled by the storms of winter and spring.

So much for the color!

Yet there are those who are devoted to Lake Tahoe who seldom speak of the coloring of its waters. Perhaps they are fascinated by its fishing. This has become as world-famed as its colors. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, of the most gamey and delicately-flavored trout are caught here annually, both by experts and amateurs. The Federal and State governments, and private individuals yearly stock the main Lake and the hundred and one smaller lakes of the region with the finest species of trout obtainable, and the results fully justify the labor and expense.

To the mountain-lover the Tahoe region is an earthly paradise. One summer I climbed over twenty peaks, each over nine thousand feet high, and all gave me glimpses of Tahoe. Some of them went up close to 11,000 feet.

Are you an admirer of Alpine, nay, High Sierran, trees? You will find all the well-known, and several rare and entirely new species in this region. This field alone could well occupy a student, or a mere amateur tree-lover a whole summer in rambling, climbing, collecting and studying.

And as for geology - the Grand Canyon of Arizona has afforded me nature reading material for nearly three decades and I am delighted by reading it yet. Still I am free to confess the uplift of these high-sweeping Sierras, upon whose lofty summits

        The high-born, beautiful snow comes down,     Silent and soft as the terrible feet     Of Time on the mosses of ruins;

the great glacial cirques, with their stupendous precipices from which the vast ice-sheets started, which gouged, smoothed, planed and grooved millions of acres of solid granite into lake-beds, polished domes and canyon walls and carried along millions of tons of rock debris to make scores of lateral and terminal moraines; together with the evidences of uplift, subsidence and volcanic outpouring of diorite and other molten rocks, afford one as vast and enjoyable a field for contemplation as any ordinary man can find in the Grand Canyon.

But why compare them? There is no need to do so. Each is supreme in its own right; different yet compelling, unlike yet equally engaging.

Then there are the ineffable climate of summer, the sunrises, the sunsets, the Indians, the flowers, the sweet-singing birds, the rowing, in winter the snow-shoeing, the camping-out, and, alas! I must say it - the hunting.

Why man will hunt save for food is beyond me. I deem it that every living thing has as much right to its life as I have to mine, but I find I am in a large minority among a certain class that finds at Lake Tahoe its hunting Mecca. Deer abound, and grouse and quail are quite common, and in the summer of 1913 I knew of four bears being shot.

Is it necessary to present further claims for Lake Tahoe? Every new hour finds a new charm, every new day calls for the louder praise, every added visit only fastens the chains of allurement deeper. For instance, this is the day of athletic maids, as well as men. We find them everywhere. Very well! Lake Tahoe is the physical culturist's heaven.

In any one of its score of camps he may sleep out of doors, on the porch, out under the pines, by the side of the Lake or in his tent or cottage with open doors and windows. At sunrise, or later, in his bathing suit, or when away from too close neighbors, clothed, as dear old Walt Whitman puts it, "in the natural and religious idea of nakedness," the cold waters of the Lake invite him to a healthful and invigorating plunge, with a stimulating and vivifying swim. A swift rub down with a crash towel, a rapid donning of rude walking togs and off, instanter, for a mile climb up one of the trails, a scramble over a rocky way to some hidden Sierran lake, some sheltered tree nook, some elevated outlook point, and, after feasting the eyes on the glories of incomparable and soul-elevating scenes, he returns to camp, eats a hearty breakfast, with a clear conscience, a vigorous appetite aided by hunger sauce, guided by the normal instincts of taste, all of which have been toned up by the morning's exercise - what wonder that such an one radiates Life and Vim, Energy and Health, Joy and Content.

Do you know what the lure must be when a busy man, an active man, an alert man, a man saturated with the nervous spirit of American commercial life, sits down in one of the seats overlooking the Lake, or spreads out his full length upon the grass, or on the beds of Sierran moss, which make a deliciously restful cushion, and stays there! He does nothing; doesn't even look consciously at the blue waters of the Lake, on the ineffable blue of the sky, or the rich green of the trees or the glory of the flowers - he simply sits or sprawls or lies and, though the influence is different, the effect is the same as that expressed in the old hymn:

        My soul would ever stay,     In such a frame as this,     And sit and sing itself away,     To everlasting bliss.

There's the idea! Calm, rest, peace, bliss. Those are what you get at Lake Tahoe. And with them come renewed health, increased vigor, strengthened courage, new power to go forth and seize the problems of life, with a surer grasp, a more certain touch, a more clearly and definitely assured end.

There are some peculiarities of Lake Tahoe that should be noted, although they are of a very different character from the foolish and sensational statements that used to be made in the early days of its history among white men. A serious advertising folder years ago sagely informed the traveling public as follows: "A strange phenomenon in connection with the Truckee River is the fact that the Lake from which it flows (Tahoe) has no inlet, so far as any one knows, and the lake into which it flows (Pyramid Lake, Nevada), has no outlet."

How utterly absurd this is. Lake Tahoe has upward of a hundred feeders, among which may be named Glenbrook, the Upper Truckee, Fallen Leaf Creek, Eagle Creek, Meek's Creek, General Creek, McKinney Creek, Madden Creek, Blackwood Creek, and Ward Creek, all of these being constant streams, pouring many thousands of inches of water daily into the Lake even at the lowest flow, and in the snow-melting and rainy seasons sending down their floods in great abundance.

To many it is a singular fact that Lake Tahoe never freezes over in winter. This is owing to its great depth, possibly aided by the ruffling and consequent disturbance of its surface by the strong northeasterly winter winds. The vast body of water, with such tremendous depth, maintains too high a temperature to be affected by surface reductions in temperature. Experiments show that the temperature in summer on the surface is 68 degrees Fahr. At 100 feet 55 degrees; at 300 feet 46 degrees; at 1506 feet 39 degrees.

Twenty years ago the thermometer at Lake Tahoe registered 18 degrees F. below zero, and in 1910 it was 10 degrees F. below. Both these years Emerald Bay froze over. Perhaps the reason for this is found in the fact that the entrance to the bay is very shallow, and that this meager depth is subject to change in surface temperature, becoming warmer in summer and colder in winter. This narrow ridge once solidly frozen, the warmth of the larger body of water would have no effect upon the now-confined smaller body of Emerald Bay. Once a firm hold taken by the ice, it would slowly spread its fingers and aid in the reduction of the temperature beyond, first producing slush-ice, and then the more solid crystal ice, until the whole surface would be frozen solid.

An explanation of the non-freezing of the main Lake has been offered by several local "authorities" as owing to the presence of a number of hot springs either in the bed of the Lake or near enough to its shores materially to affect its temperature. But I know of few or no "facts" to justify such an explanation.

When I first visited Lake Tahoe over thirty years ago I was seriously and solemnly informed by several (who evidently believed their own assertions) that, owing to the great elevation of the Lake, the density of the water, etc., etc., it was impossible for any one to swim in Lake Tahoe. I was assured that several who had tried had had narrow escapes from drowning. While the utter absurdity of the statements was self-evident I decided I would give myself a practical demonstration. To be perfectly safe I purchased a clothes-line, then, hiring a row-boat, went as far away from shore as was desirable, undressed, tied one end of the rope around the seat, the other around my body, and - jumped in. I did not sink. Far from it. I was never more stimulated to swim in my life. My ten or fifteen feet dive took me into colder water than I had ever experienced before and I felt as if suddenly, and at one fell swoop, I were flayed alive. Gasping for breath I made for the boat, climbed in, and in the delicious glow that came with the reaction decided that it was quite as important to feel of the temperature of lake water before you leaped, as it was to render yourself safe from sinking by anchoring yourself to a clothesline.

But I would not have my reader assume from the recital of this experience that Lake Tahoe is always too cold for swimming. Such is not the case. Indeed in June, July, August and September the swimming is delightful to those who enjoy "the cool, silver shock of the plunge in a pool's living water," that Browning's Saul so vividly pictures for us. Hundreds of people - men, women and children - in these months indulge in the daily luxury, especially in the coves and beaches where the water is not too deep, and the sun's ardent rays woo them into comfortable warmth.

After a warm day's tramp or ride over the trails, too, there is nothing more delicious than a plunge into one of the lakes. A short, crisp swim, a vigorous rub down, and a resumption of the walk or ride and one feels fit enough to conquer a world.

It can be imagined, too, what a lively scene the Lake presents in the height of the season, when, from the scores of hotels, resorts, camps, private residences, fishermen's camps, etc.; fishing-boats, row-boats, launches, motor-boats, and yachts ply to and fro in every direction, unconsciously vying with each other to attract the eye of the onlooker. The pure blue of the Lake, with its emerald ring and varying shades of color, added to by the iridescent gleam that possesses the surface when it is slightly rippled by a gentle breeze, contrasting with the active, vivid, moving boats of differing sizes, splashed with every conceivable color by the hats and costumes of the occupants - all these conspire to demand the eye, to enchain the attention, to harmlessly hypnotize, as it were, those who sit on the shore and look.

And when is added to this the spontaneous shouts and shrieks of delight that the feminine "fishermen" give when they are successful and make a catch, the half-frenzied and altogether delighted announcements thereof, the whole-hearted or the half-jealous, half-envious return-congratulations, while now and then the large steamer, Tahoe, or an elegant private yacht, as the Tevis's Consuelo, crosses the scene, one may partially but never fully conceive the joy and radiant happiness, the satisfaction and content that Lake Tahoe inspires and produces.

Lake Tahoe covers about 190 square miles, and its watershed is about 500 square miles. The boundary line between Nevada and California strikes the Lake on the northern border at the 120th meridian, and a point at that spot is called the State Line Point. The latitude parallel of this northern entrance is 39 deg. 15". The boundary line goes due south until about 38 deg. 58" and then strikes off at an oblique angle to the southeast, making the southern line close to Lakeside Park, a few miles east of the 120th meridian.