From Kennedy to Obama, presidential visits to Lake Tahoe
February 19, 2018
Monday, Feb. 19, is Presidents Day — a holiday that, when first celebrated, was held in recognition of George Washington's birthday, but now honors all presidents of the United States. In commemoration of the event, we've taken a look at the known trips commander-in-chiefs have made to Lake Tahoe before, during and after they held office.
While many stopped in the basin along the campaign trail, some visited simply for leisure.
Ulysses S. Grant
According to Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin, Grant was the first president to visit Lake Tahoe back in the late 1870s. "He had left office and came out wanting to see the Comstock," McLaughlin noted.
Grant's 1879 excursion included a trip to Carson City in addition to a voyage aboard the steamboat "Meteor" to Tahoe City.
Rutherford B. Hayes
One year after Grant's appearance at Lake Tahoe, Hayes traveled to the region during his presidency — and his time in the basin mirrored that of Grant.
"Both came and did a similar tour," said McLaughlin. "Grant did his one way; Hayes in the opposite direction."
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Both men journeyed on the "Meteor" and crossed Spooner Summit in the stagecoach of Hank Monk.
John F. Kennedy
"JFK was here because he came out when he was running for president — you always come to Carson City because it's the capital of Nevada," McLaughlin said, continuing, "While he was here he made a quick foray up to see the site of the Olympics — they were over, but he wanted to see where they were held at Squaw [Valley]."
Other rumors state that on his way back to Carson City, Kennedy stopped at Cal Neva Lodge (which was owned by his friend Frank Sinatra) and met with Marilyn Monroe.
"The story was that Kennedy stopped by and had a sexual encounter with [Monroe], but we can't be sure that he stopped," McLaughlin explained. "It makes sense he would because of Sinatra, but Monroe was filming in Southern California and it's unlikely she'd come up for a one-hour stop."
Nixon was vice president to Dwight Eisenhower when he spoke at the opening commencement of the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.
He visited the region again while on the campaign trail during his own run for the presidency, and signed the Bi-State Compact (which created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) at the start of his term in 1969.
Like Nixon, Reagan played a role in the creation of the TRPA — he approved the Bi-State Compact while serving as governor of California. As governor, Reagan met frequently with Paul Laxalt (then governor of Nevada) — who had a property in the basin.
Apart from his political visits, Reagan also frequented the basin on personal trips and skied at Heavenly Mountain Resort (then called Heavenly Valley) in 1968.
George H.W. Bush
While specifics about Bush's visit are unknown, McLaughlin says he stopped in the area alongside then-Vice President Dan Quayle.
"He came to Tahoe and met with Steve Wynn, a big gaming kingpin who has recently been discredited by the #MeToo movement for sexual improprieties," said McLaughlin.
Perhaps Clinton's most memorable Tahoe appearance came in 1997 when he attended and spoke at the inaugural Lake Tahoe Summit. Clinton returned to the event for its 10th anniversary in 2007.
But his most recent trip to Lake Tahoe happened less than a year ago: Last July Clinton planned a trip to Edgewood Tahoe during the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament; however, when word got out he opted for a visit to Genoa Lakes Golf Club in Douglas County.
Obama remains the latest sitting president to visit the Tahoe Basin. On Aug. 31, 2016, he spoke about his commitment to environmental protection at the annual Lake Tahoe Summit, which was held at Harveys Outdoor Arena in Stateline that year.
During his speech, he noted his desire to return to the region — but it hasn't happened yet.
A few days prior to Obama's appearance at the Lake Tahoe Summit, then-candidate Trump held a fundraising dinner at Harrah's Lake Tahoe.
He arrived at Lake Tahoe Airport on Aug. 26, 2016, and his event took place later that night.
However, it's a visit Trump made to Tahoe in 2006 that has been getting media attention during the past month. In January the Wall Street Journal reported that a limited liability company formed by Trump's attorney made a six-figure payment to Stormy Daniels, a pornstar, to keep her from discussing an alleged affair.
The affair reportedly started with a sexual encounter between Trump, then a reality TV star, and Clifford during the 2006 celebrity golf tournament.