Carnelian Bay is a colorful Tahoe stop |

Carnelian Bay is a colorful Tahoe stop

Mark McLaughlin
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
Cyclists zip through Carnelian Bay during a Tour de Nez race.
Mark McLaughlin | Lake Tahoe Action

Next time you’re zipping along Lake Tahoe’s North Shore take the time to stop at Carnelian Bay, midway between Tahoe City and Kings Beach. Ever since the first pioneers explored the Lake Tahoe Basin, Carnelian Bay has been considered a choice location on Lake Tahoe. A regular stop for early visitors to the Lake, it is still one of the best points to enjoy panoramic views down the nearly 22-mile length of this famous alpine lake.

Initially called “Cornelian Bay” for the pretty, semi-precious red and yellow carnelian stones found on its beach, this small bay was renamed Carnelian Bay in the 1880s. In the early days, when the only way around the lake was by steamer, it was the last stopping point starting south from Tahoe City or the first when starting north and east. A popular pastime for visitors was to fill their pockets with the translucent, jewel-like stones that littered the beach. Even today, a sharp-eyed person can still find colorful carnelians along the shoreline here.

It wasn’t just the views that drew 19th century visitors. In the spring of 1871, Dr. George M. Bourne established a health spa in Carnelian Bay. Dr. Bourne, who had run successful health clinics in San Francisco and Sacramento, decided that Tahoe’s pleasant summer climate and beneficial sun and healing waters would do wonders for his patients. So he opened “Dr. Bourne’s Hygienic Establishment,” where he prescribed “pure mountain air, fresh vegetable juices, abstinence from stimulants, and trout fishing for a long and healthy life.” By 1874, health seekers were flocking to Dr. Bourne’s spa, which he had re-christened the “Cornelian Bay Sanatoria.” He was so convinced of Lake Tahoe’s health benefits, he petitioned to change Tahoe’s name to “Lake Sanatoria.” During the summer season Dr. Bourne was busy with his patients, but in winter the “Hermit of Cornelian Bay” spent the long cold months alone in his cabin known as “Castle Keep.” Dr. Bourne died in the 1880s, and in the early 1890s the Flick brothers purchased the land holdings.

The three Flick brothers were probably best known for the fact that they were all born on Christmas Day — William in 1841, Joseph in 1847 and Nicholas in 1851 — and all died in the month of April. Flick Point (the land spit to the east of Sierra Boat Co.) was named for this trio of bachelor pioneers from Ottawa, Ill. Dr. Bourne may have been right about longevity through Tahoe’s high-altitude climate and bountiful fishing. When Nick Flick was interviewed in 1935, at the ripe age of 74, he said, “Yessir, we settled right here on Carnelian Bay, and outside of falling off wagons, we haven’t had a sick day since… And as for fishing…I used to row from Flick’s Point across the bay (Kings Beach) to Brockway, and these big lake trout were so darned thick we could hardly swing an oar.”

Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at local stores or at He can be reached at

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