The legendary stories associated with Lake Tahoe are more numerous than the number of humps supposedly seen on the back of Tahoe Tessie.
For whatever reason, the alpine lake has a rich history of mythical accounts. In fact, when famed marine biologist Jacques Cousteau led an expedition to explore the depths of Lake Tahoe in the early 1970s, he saw something so astonishing he told the media “the world is not ready for what is down there.”
What would have caused such a world-renowned oceanographer to be so alarmed? Tahoe’s version of the Loch Ness monster (Tahoe Tessie)? The Kraken? A fresh-water version of Atlantis? A slew of dead, still intact Mafia bodies all standing on the bottom in cement-filled shoes?
What he saw that day will never be known as he has long since passed away. One thing is for certain, though, it had nothing to do with Lake Tahoe as there is no record of Cousteau ever visiting the area, let alone leading a deep-water expedition. Yet, tales such as Cousteau’s Tahoe trip continue to surface like Tessie’s tail.
Perhaps it’s because the oligotrophic, dark blue water causes waves and shadows to appear like something else is present. Maybe it’s the simple fact that the lake is so deep it makes people believe a different ecosystem supporting new and exotic creatures – perhaps a plesiosaur – may exist.
While some have fed off accounts of other locations, such as the Scottish highlands, most others evolved from the Washoe Indians who told many fabulous stories to the first settlers who moved into the area long ago.
A singing fish living in Meeks Bay, a bird who lives at the bottom of the lake and rises up to snatch people when its hungry, and of course a large dinosaur-looking monster are all said to inhabit the alpine body of water, according to old reports.
Despite being completely mapped by scientists, another popular fictitious belief is the lake is bottomless and contains several large caverns that connect deep underground with Pyramid Lake in the Nevada desert.
There is actually one yarn that is still told on occasion by locals about a sturgeon that lived in Pyramid Lake showing up in the waters of Lake Tahoe. It did so by following one of these water passageways deep under the city of Reno and the Sierra Nevada.
How they were able to determine it was the same sturgeon and not transported by a conspiracy-theorist angler is still a mystery. Also, while rumors abound, there still isn’t one confirmed case of a sturgeon being caught in Lake Tahoe.
In the end, the mythical and legendary stories continue to swirl like snowflakes in winter. The reasons are unknown, although adding to the lure of Lake Tahoe and helping tourism is definitely one of them. The fact that some people actually believe they saw something odd lurking just beneath the surface, something that can not be explained, is another.
Whatever is behind it all, the fish tales continue – especially in the Meeks Bay area, where they are much more melodious.