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By: W. Dire Wolff


Lake Tahoe's North Shore

The North Shore has preserved some of the rich historical heritage that founded the communities of the Tahoe region. Tourists can still feel the rustic charm of America’s old west in the town of Truckee, the other little towns around the Donner Summit area, and the surrounding communities in Nevada/Placer County. It is in this region that the infamous "Donner Party" suffered a tragic and disastrous winter storm. Visitors can see the snow-covered train tunnels that wind along the mountain region of 'Donner Pass’. Beautiful Donner Lake is nestled in the mountains of Donner Pass. From the year 1844 when the first documented party of pioneers traveled west through Donner Pass, many a wagon train fought it’s way over the rough terrain to California’s central valley. By the 1860s’ Truckee had emerged as an important stop for the travelers braving the mountain passes in their wagons. First the town served as a way station serving wagon traffic and then later provided a supply station for the construction of the transcontinental railroad. The transcontinental railroad brought it’s first train to Truckee in 1868. Although American pioneers live in legends of the old west, it was the American Indians that aided them in establishing a settlement in this remote mountain region.

Native American Indians came to the great Truckee Basin to hunt in the mountainous region that was then teeming with large game. They fished the rivers and lake and gathered nuts, roots, and foilage of the mountain plants for food and medicines. The area also served as a gathering place for tribal councils of the Washoe tribe, and other friendly tribes. The Native Americans’ name for the Truckee River was wakhu wata. When the first Americans began to make their way across the barren deserts westward toward the mountains of the Truckee River basin, the Indians were there and helped them to continue westward through the mountains. A now famous Indian chief of the Paiute Indian tribe was especially eager to greet and help the white travelers. The town of Truckee is said to have been named after the friendly chief who helped countless pioneers make their way over the mountain pass to the California Valley.

Incline Village was developed as a town in 1959, but the area’s history dates back to silver mining that took place there in the 1800’s. There was steep railroad tramway that shuttled timber up a 4,000 foot rail system, for use in the silver mines in Virginia City, Nevada. The tramway was constructed by the "Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company". The logging didn’t stop until all the trees were removed and the mountains lay barren and wasted. The loggers cut down the fir tree forests, leveled the sugar pines, yellow pine and Jeffrey trees. There was nothing left to produce seeds for future generations of forests. Only the white fir remained, as these trees were not good for use as lumber.

Slowly the fast growing evergreen trees are covering the mountains again. The beautiful forest is mostly made up of the white fir that the loggers left behind. But having only one major tree population has upset the ecology of the forest, and it now can easily fall victim to drought and disease. Despite all this, the forest has been returning around Incline Village and the greater Tahoe region. What was once a small stop along dismal clearcut mountain landscape, is now the thriving tourist center of Incline Village, attracting snowriders from around the world.

Today Interstate 80 allows motorists to pass through Donner Pass where the transcontinental railroad and the wagon trains of old, once traveled. Many of the restaurants, motels, and Inns of the Tahoe area have made great effort to provide a flavor of those exciting days of old. This seems especially true of the business community of North Lake Tahoe.

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