Quirky Lake Tahoe Stories
  • Cal Neva lodge front entrance circa 1934

    Tahoe is anything but ordinary. Wonder what the off-the-record version of Tahoe history looks like? Read on.

    Well, for starters, there’s George Whittell. He was an odd old bird with enough money to excuse his eccentricities. A preservationist at heart, Whittell bought up several tracts of land on the north near Incline Village, and built himself quite the stunning residence, Thunderbird Lodge. As far as quirky goes, Whittell would throw poker parties in the game room, and if his luck was down, instead of enjoying the sport of the game, he’d excuse himself to the bathroom, open a compartment in the shower, and retreat back to the lodge via a secret passageway, never losing face or losing money.

    Paddle boarders near Sand Harbor

    Can’t help but mention the legendary Frank Sinatra, a fire involving his cherished CalNeva at Crystal Bay, some insurance money, and a whole lot of not talking about the scandal. There’s Sand Harbor State Park, the only state park in Nevada that continuously makes money, due to the popularity of the beaches, convenience of the boat launch, and stellar life guard staff.

    If you’re interested in gorey lore, the locals claim that the when the mafia had bodies to dispose of, the thugs would throw the corpses into the middle of the lake. Since the lake is so deep and near freezing, the bodies are said to be suspended in several meters below the surface, fully intact, one still wearing her wedding gown.

    And then there’s Mark Twain, who visited Lake Tahoe to stake a claim for timber or gold, and ended up burning down his shanty, all the trees on his claim allotment and on down to the beach.

    If you’re looking for a place with a distinctive personality, make sure to visit Tahoe, and ask the locals lots of questions. You’ll get truth and legend, and a good laugh if nothing else.