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An in-depth look into the stories of Tahoe required reading for all who love the lake

Tim Parsons

“Tahoe Beneath the Surface” is the must-read book of the year for anyone who has an interest in Lake Tahoe.

An easy and entertaining read, the book by Foothill College professor Scott Lankford is divided into 15 topics, each thoroughly researched. The author thought it would take maybe six months to write. It instead took 10 years.

“I honestly believe that every one of those chapters could have been a book on its own,” Lankford said. “The advantage of my book is you get this huge overview, the pivotal nature of Tahoe in a national perspective.”

For example, Lankford might have expected a chapter about the television program “Bonanza” to be mostly about it being the first network show broadcast in color along with details about specific film set locations. Instead, Lankford research revealed a revolutionary view about civil rights. A native American’s point of view had never before been presented in a positive or poignant way on this nation’s big or small screens.

“I’ll tell the story of the Chinese railroad or I’ll tell the story of John Muir going camping at Lake Tahoe, and every single time I would discover what I thought was a hidden and far more pivotal story,” Lankford said. “I’m the guy who kept asking, What does this have to do with national politics or national conservation? What does this have to do with American literature? On a large scale, not just a small scale. It was that wide-angle lens that kept surfacing stories that were always there to be told.”

The chapter about the “Truckee Method” is the most disturbing societal piece of history in the book.

“Who would have dreamed that some of the bloodiest race riots in U.S. history had its epicenter at our little town of Truckee?” Lankford said. “It shocked the hell out of me. I had no idea. I cannot believe I’m reading this, but it’s all so thoroughly documented that there’s no getting around it.”

Lankford is close to finishing a book about Paris, and although both explorer John Fremont and author Mark Twain spent time in the French city, Tahoe anecdotes are not included. He’s saving that for the next book, which he intends to research three years, visiting the largest lake on each continent.

“We’re going to continue the Tahoe story, I hope at a global level,” said Lankford, who has established contacts with Tahoe environmental researchers, all who are students of Dr. Charles Goldman.

“(Goldman’s) like the great wizard of lake science worldwide,” Lankford said. “His students have fanned out across the globe to save the rest of the world’s lakes. So if you know those guys, you have a door opener to all the things on the planet to what are we doing to save lakes. Tahoe is the world standard for how you save a large lake.”


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