Fremont discovered Tahoe 150-plus years ago today |

Fremont discovered Tahoe 150-plus years ago today

Emily Aughinbaugh

More than 150 years ago, a group of European explorers spent the winter trudging west through the Sierra Nevada in subzero temperatures headed to California in search of uncharted lands.

It was on the morning of Feb. 14, 1844, that the leader of the group, Lt. John C. Fremont first laid his eyes on a pristine blue lake that sat under a layer of clouds between the Carson Range and the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Only frequented by Native Americans of the Washoe Tribe, the lake had never been noted by any explorer.

Fremont never touched the lake’s shorelines, but simply named it Lake Bompland after a famous cartographer and moved on.

Two years later, the state of California named it Lake Bigler after John Bigler, the third governor, although many people who frequented the majestic mountain lake only called it by one name, Lake Tahoe.

Don Lane, U.S. Forest Service recreation supervisor, said the white man called the lake “Tah-hoe,” probably meaning “water in a high place” after misinterpreting the Washoe name “Da-ow-a-ga,” or “edge of the lake.”

However, the California Legislature would not budge on changing the lake’s name from Bigler. Several California newspaper editors, cartographers and legislators considered alternative names for the lake after cartographer William Henry Knight led a revolt to change it.

Lake Fremont, Tulia Tulia, Lake Truckee and Mountain Lake were all options, until the Legislature finally agreed to Lake Tahoe in 1945.

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