Why Are There Old Train Tracks Going Into Lake Tahoe?

If you’ve ever explored the breathtaking beaches of Lake Tahoe, you may have noticed a rare sight of railroad tracks going straight into the crystal clear water. It’s an odd to see, since there’s no way a railroad could have gone through that area, with Tahoe being a natural lake and sitting in its place for thousands of years.

These tracks that sit all over the beaches of Tahoe can make for a beautiful view and a visual example of the history of the lake. They aren’t, in fact, train tracks, but rather used to launch boats on the lake from their storage facilities inland starting in the early-1900’s.

As the wealthy began to settle and build vacation homes in the Tahoe areas in 20th century, they needed a way to keep their boats safe when they weren’t in the water or during the snowy winter season. They would build large garages to house the boats and used the tracks to transport them into the lake.

The most prominent of these operations was at the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, which now sits as a California State park. In the summer, the wealthy family would transport these racing boats onto the water using the tracks:

There are a few sets of the tracks around the lake, including this one at Sugar Pine Point State Park:

My favorite shot that I’ve ever taken. Lake Tahoe, California. from r/pics

The tracks go deep into the lake to allow for the boats to begin floating as they’re pushed into the water:

The tracks going into Lake Tahoe are a relic of a time when only the wealthy could afford to live on the beautiful lake. Today, many of the wealthy mansions of that area sit as historical sites or event venues, celebrating the fancy lives of the Lake Tahoe residents decades ago.

No they aren’t old train tracks going into Lake Tahoe, but they do tell a story of the history of the lake.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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