The present Supervisor of the Tahoe Forest is Richard L.P. Bigelow, to whose kindness I am indebted for much of the information contained in this chapter.
PUBLIC USE OF THE WATERS OF LAKE TAHOE
There has always been considerable discussion and dissension among conflicting interests as to the use of the waters of Lake Tahoe for private or semi-public uses, and, finally, in 1903 the U.S. Reclamation Service entered into the field. At my request Mr. D.W. Cole, engineer-in-charge of the Truckee-Carson project, kindly furnishes the following data:
Along in the 60’s of the last century the region around the Lake acquired great importance on account of the fine growth of timber on the surrounding mountain slopes. It is said that a great many million feet of lumber were harvested in this region. For many years the entire lumber supply for the old Comstock mines was derived from this source. Virginia City, Carson City and the neighboring mining communities were built from the timber of the Lake Tahoe basin, and it might be said that the foundation of the fortunes of the California gold kings, who developed the Comstock mines, was made of the pine wood which grew upon the shores of Lake Tahoe, without which that wonderful output of $700,000,000 of gold from the Comstock lode would have been impossible.
Supplementing the timber supply the water from Marlette Lake, a tributary to Lake Tahoe, was diverted by a remarkable engineering achievement for supplying Virginia City and the deep mines. Marlette Lake lies several hundred feet above Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side, and half a century ago its waters were taken through flume, tunnel and pipe line across the dividing mountain range and out into the desert valley of the Carson River for sustaining the gold seekers of Virginia City. This work of the pioneer engineers was scarcely less bold in its conception and wonderful in its execution than the famous Sutro tunnel which drains the underground waters from the Comstock mines.
About 1870 the first use of Lake Tahoe for other than navigation purposes was made by building a log crib dam at the outlet for the purpose of storing flood-waters to be used in log-driving in the Truckee River below the Lake.
The outlet of the Lake was in a land grant section belonging to the Central Pacific Railway Company, and one of the earlier lumber companies procured a charter from the State of California and proceeded to build a dam and operate it for log-driving purposes.
In the course of time the development of water-power in the Truckee River below the Lake became of considerable importance, both for saw-mill and other manufacturing purposes. The dam at the Lake’s outlet was passed from the possession of the Donner Boom & Lumber Company into the hands of other interests who were making