La Hontan never saw Lahontan |

La Hontan never saw Lahontan

It’s a lake, a type of fish and a water quality control board, but do you know where the word “Lahontan” comes from?

The word has an odd history.

The Great Basin – encompassing portions of Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and California – is the portion of western North America that has no drainage to the ocean. The water in this area once was held in two giant lakes. The eastern portion was Lake Bonneville, the remnant of which is now the Great Salt Lake. The western portion was called Lahontan, the remains of which are Pyramid Lake, Honey Lake and the Carson Sink.

The name Lahontan was given to the ancient lake by explorer Clarence King, a geologist looking for a route for the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. King named the lake after a French nobleman-turned-explorer who in the 1600s visited parts of what became Canada and the United States. He wrote extensively about his expedition in the New World, and that is why King nearly 200 years later named the giant ancient lake after him.

Baron Louis de La Hontan never actually visited the region where Lahontan cutthroat trout once flourished but are now rare, a Lake Lahontan exists in Nevada and a Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board oversees 33,000 square miles of California mountains.

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