The Gatekeeper’s Museum

Consider visiting the Gatekeepers Museum which offers a fascinating look into the history of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Gatekeepers Museum is located where the outlet for the Truckee River begins from Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City, California. This would be on the western shore of Lake Tahoe. The Gatekeeper’s Museum is located in William B. Layton Park behind Fanny Bridge at 120 West Lake Boulevard. As of this writing, the Gatekeeper’s Museum is open  May through September from 10am to 5pm daily, except Tuesdays, and the rest of the year on weekends only between 11am and 3pm.

lake tahoe museums
Gatekeeper’s Museum, Tahoe City, CA

The existing Gatekeeper’s cabin is a reconstruction of the original cabin built in 1910 in the same location. The original cabin which was built by Robert Montgomery Watson burned down in the early 1980’s.The fire was believed to be arson.

The Gatekeeper’s cabin was originally built to be the home of the “watermaster” who controlled the water flow out of Lake Tahoe. This job would also be described as the “dam attendant“.

The cabin/museum displays Tahoe history, from the Washoe people through the logging and mining eras and the beginning of the tourism industry at Lake Tahoe. Museum exhibits include Native American baskets, resort memorabilia, historical photographs, clothing, oral histories, maps, archival documents, newspapers, and artifacts.

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Cottonwood Trail Head at Layton Park, Tahoe City CA

Layton Park

The Gatekeeper’s Museum is located inside Layton Park. Long before this spot was named Layton Park it was a summer home to the Washoe Indians. This was so for thousands of years while the Washoe traveled from the lower elevations of Nevada to the high elevation of what is now Tahoe City. Today, those visiting the Gatekeeper’s Museum and Tahoe City may enjoy a short hike around Layton Park’s “Cottonwood Trail” . This is a loop path that gives you the chance to view a large number of trees, bushes and flowers that are native to the area.

You should be able to pick up a brochure at the trail head which will explain the numerical markers seen along the trail. Near the trail head you’ll also see an exhibit of the old Tahoe Firehouse.

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Truckee River Dam at the Lake Tahoe shoreline

The Truckee River

The Truckee River Basin covers an area of approximately 3,060 square miles in the states of California and Nevada. The river’s basin stretches in a generally north by northeast direction from Lake Tahoe, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the border between California and Nevada. The Truckee river water flows to Pyramid Lake, located about 50 air miles away from Lake Tahoe in the desert of northwestern Nevada. The Truckee River is 105 miles in length.

The Truckee River is the only outlet from Lake Tahoe. The Truckee River is a great place to fish, ride a raft down the rapids, or do some casual sightseeing, all depending on which length of the river you happen to be on at the time. Tourists are gleefully informed of the famed “fanny bridge” or “rump row” which is viewed by sightseers leaning over to look at the river below.

Exploring Lake Tahoe

The earliest known inhabitants of the Tahoe Basin were the nomadic predecessors to the Washoe, Maidu and Paiute Indian Tribes. These tribes existed during the Middle Archaic Period and reportedly returned to the area seasonally to collect medicinal plants, hunt, fish and create stone tools.

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Map of the Gatekeeper’s Museum and Truckee River Dam location in Tahoe City, CA

The first European to set eyes on lake Tahoe was John C. Fremont. Fremont came across Lake Tahoe in February of 1844. Along with his exploration party was Kit Carson. Fremont first observed Lake Tahoe from what is today, Carson Pass.

At this time the Lake Tahoe shoreline was inhabited mostly by the Washoe tribe. Interestingly enough the lake had various names until it was officially named Lake Tahoe in 1945. The state line between California and Nevada passes roughly through the middle of Lake Tahoe.

In the 1850’s the California Gold Rush and people resettling resulted in heavy wagon train traffic through what is today Highway 50. Then, wagon traffic was so heavy the route was called the Roaring Road. Today Highway 50, passing over Echo Summit, is the main  route for motorists driving from Sacramento or the Bay Area to South Lake Tahoe. Interstate 80 is the more direct route taken to Donner Pass, Truckee, and the ski areas west and north of the lake.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

 A Visit to Old Town Sacramento

Nevada City California and the Lady Gambler

tahoe city california
Tahoe City, California

Tahoe City California

Tahoe City is located on the western shore of Lake Tahoe about 14 miles southeast of Donner Pass. The area was surveyed in 1863 with the Tahoe House built one year later. The town was a stop over point for people traveling to and from the Nevada Comstock Lode. First named simply Tahoe, the name was changed to Tahoe City in 1949.

Today, Tahoe City California is a major tourist destination on Lake Tahoe. During the summer months Tahoe City is a place for rafting, hiking, biking, boating and all types of watersports plus golf and horesback riding. During the winter months Tahoe City is all about snow and all snow sports. Plenty of attractions in Tahoe City and Lake Tahoe to make a vacation or long weekend a great time.

( Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)