Lake Tahoe... Lighthouses?

Lake Tahoe... Lighthouses?
When we think of California shoreline, we think of the 840 miles that span the distance between Oregon and Mexico. The seventy-one miles of shoreline at Lake Tahoe, however, also entices tourists with its waves and sand. Pleasure and commerce boats have plied the waters of the lake since the European settlement of the area; at one time, a mail route spanned the circumference. Given the high elevations, gusty winds, and legendary weather conditions, it’s not surprising that people saw a need for lighthouses in the area. While there aren’t any operational at the present time, there are two historical remnants that provide the terminus to fun hikes in the area.

The Rubicon Point Light was established in 1919 with the simplest of materials: an AGA 200m lantern with a flasher, mounted two hundred feet above the lake, at Rubicon Point. Because of its remote location, this proved to be a difficult site to supply, and the equipment was moved four and a half miles north a few years later. The abandoned site deteriorated until 1979, when the state of California stabilized what was left.

Today, the wooden, outhouse-resembling structure that once housed the lamp still peers across the cold waters. Located inside D.L. Bliss/Emerald Bay State Park, the remains of the lighthouse connect to both Lester Beach and the Pines campground by the Lighthouse/Rubicon trail. This is an invigorating, possibly challenging hike, and there’s very little left to view, but the view of the lake and the isolation of the area evokes an older era when such structures were the only safety net for boats struggling to avoid shoals. Note that the park requires a fee for the visit.
When Rubicon Point was deactivated, the materials were moved to Sugar Pine Point. Constructed in 1921, the lighthouse served the area until 1985, when storm damage caused the structure to be replaced with a solar-powered lamp attached to a steel pole mounted on a metal platform. It can be reached via the trails emanating from the General Creek Campground at Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, just south of Tahoe City on Highway 89.

Interested in learning more about the nautical history of Lake Tahoe? The Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City offers memorabilia and photographs of the steamers and pleasure boats that plied the waters. This small museum is manned by the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society, which also keeps the Watson Cabin Living Museum, the oldest building in Tahoe City, which houses a collection of artifacts from the turn of the twentieth century. You’ll find the Gatekeeper’s Museum thirty minutes north of D. L. Bliss State Park, with Sugar Pine Point in between the two.

Note that wintry weather often closes the state parks in the Lake Tahoe area. Call ahead to check on park statuses if you’re traveling at times other than high summer. In all seasons, remember that you’ll be at altitude, which can mean cold temperatures at any time of the year as well as increased danger of sunburn – be sure to bring the sunblock!

D L Bliss State Park and Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park are both located on Highway 89 on the Lake Tahoe shoreline. This highway connects to both Interstate 80 from the north, and Highway 50 to the south. The closest big cities are Sacramento, California, and Reno, Nevada.



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Lake Tahoe
Lighthouses of California

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Content copyright © 2019 by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . All rights reserved.
This content was written by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. for details.