WHY “THE LAKE OF THE SKY”?
Lake Tahoe is the largest lake at its altitude—twenty-three miles long by thirteen broad, 6225 feet above the level of the sea—with but one exception in the world. Then, too, it closely resembles the sky in its pure and perfect color. One often experiences, on looking down upon it from one of its many surrounding mountains, a feeling of surprise, as if the sky and earth had somehow been reversed and he was looking down upon the sky instead of the earth.
And, further, Lake Tahoe so exquisitely mirrors the purity of the sky; its general atmosphere is so perfect, that one feels it is peculiarly akin to the sky.
Mark Twain walked to Lake Tahoe in the early sixties, from Carson City, carrying a couple of blankets and an ax. He suggests that his readers will find it advantageous to go on horseback. It was a hot summer day, not calculated to make one of his temperament susceptible to fine scenic impressions, yet this is what he says:
We plodded on, two or three hours longer, and at last the Lake burst upon us—a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher still. It was a vast oval, and one would have to use up eighty or a hundred good miles in traveling around it. As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords!
And there you have it! Articulate or inarticulate, something like this is what every one thinks when he first sees Tahoe, and the oftener he sees it, and the more he knows it the more grand and glorious it becomes. It is immaterial that there are lakes perched upon higher mountain shelves, and that one or two of them, at equal or superior altitudes, are larger in size. Tahoe ranks in the forefront both for altitude and size, and in beauty and picturesqueness, majesty and sublimity, there is no mountain body of water on this earth that is its equal.
Why such superlatives in which world-travelers generally—in fact, invariably—agree? There must be some reason for it. Nay, there are many. To thousands the chief charm of Lake Tahoe is in the exquisite, rare, and astonishing colors of its waters. They are an endless source of delight to all who see them, no matter how insensible they may be, ordinarily, to the effect of color. There is no shade of blue or green that cannot here be found and the absolutely clear and pellucid quality of the water enhances the beauty and perfection of the tone.
One minister of San Francisco thus speaks of the coloring: