Mapping out the history of our the outdoors can be a difficult task, one that requires time, money, and maybe even a submarine.
Fallen Leaf Lake on the south side of Lake Tahoe is a beautiful high elevation (6,300 feet) lake with clear blue water surrounded by the gorgeous Sierra Nevadas. The lake is deep – 410 feet at its deepest point – and researchers are doing their best to scour the bottom of the lake looking for historic clues to reveal the lake level and forest structure at that location thousands of years ago.
The Undersea Voyager Project is looking for ancient forests at the bottom of the lake to answer questions surrounding the historic landscape of the Tahoe area thousands of years ago. Here is an excerpt from an article from California Diver Magazine:
“In 1997, some researchers who studied the trees came to the conclusion that the submerged ancient mature conifer trees grew during a medieval megadrought that lasted 150-200 years. Once the drought was over, the lake level quickly rose 150-200 feet, they theorized, quickly submerged the trees and preserved them in the frigid water that hovers just above freezing.
That theory doesn’t seem right according to some, including Tom Loomis, a third-generation resident and avid outdoorsman. Tom owns a cabin on Fallen Leaf Lake, grew up hiking and snowmobiling the mountains around it, and has spent decades scuba diving in the waters below it. Based on evidence seen in the local terrain and found underwater during hundreds of dives on the ancient trees, he believes there’s a completely different answer.
“The theory that the trees grew there during a megadrought sounds good on paper, but the evidence just doesn’t add up”, Tom explains. “I’ve been diving on these ancient trees for decades and from what I’ve seen firsthand, it’s obvious that there is a different explanation.””
So, in essence, the Undersea Voyager Project is trying to figure out if the trees grew up on the mountain and slid down after years of landslides, or if they grew in the same location during a massive drought. The most exciting part of the exploration is how the cold waters of Fallen Leaf Lake have kept these ancient forests intact, giving researchers a pristine look at this ancient forest. See this tree up close and personal:
While we may never know how this forest came to be at the bottom of Fallen Leaf Lake, these explorations can give us some insight into the past. Pretty cool!