Lake Tahoe Vacation Guide
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Lake Tahoe Museums


When you come to Lake Tahoe, be sure to visit the interesting and informative assortment of museums in the Basin.


The South Lake Tahoe Historical Society and Museum
The South Lake Tahoe Historical Society operates the museum and is devoted to the study of the heritage of the Lake Tahoe Basin and dedicated to the collection, preservation and distribution of historical information.

The museum features displays which chronicle the development of the Lake Tahoe Basin from its earliest occupation by Native Americans through its 19th century development to the present time.

Located at the south end of the largest, deepest Alpine Lake in the U.S., the museum presents visual and educational exhibits that tell the story of its development while displaying outstanding artifacts collected from residents and visitors in its quarter century of operation.

Within the past 150 years the Lake Tahoe Basin was settled, expanded, drew new visitors and permanent settlers. The continuing saga includes U.S. discovery, westward moving wagon trains, gold and silver rush traffic through the basin, Pony Express stations, logging and railroad industries the development of tourism, skiing and more.

A Special Exhibit area features events of current importance and interest for the museum and the community. The museum shop sells books and other related material that concerns Lake Tahoe. Material in the museum and its archives is available for use by visitors, researchers and history buffs and includes large photographic and archival collections, oral histories and a small library.

Just behind the museum, visitors can see the old Log Cabin, built in 1931, and the oldest building still standing in the Lake Tahoe Basin, Osgood's Toll House, built in 1859. A few blocks west, Bijou Community Park houses the museum's Lake Valley Railroad narrow gauge and log carrier exhibit.

The museum is open daily in the summer between 11:00 a.m and 4:00 p.m. and on weekends in the winter between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

The South Lake Tahoe Historical Society and Museum
3058 Lake Tahoe Blvd. / U.S. HWY 50
South Lake Tahoe




This 150-acre site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 for its historic and architectural significance. Take an easy walk through the Tallac Historic Site and relive the luxurious resort era and summer homes of the early 1900s. Three original 1920 era estates on beautiful grounds are part of this walk by the lake.

The Tallac Resort (1880-1920)
Look for the concrete foundation of the "Greatest Casino in America," originally part of Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin's resort that catered to the nouveau rich from San Francisco, Sacramento and Virginia City.

Baldwin Estate (1921)
This building, now a house museum, was built in 1921 by Dextra Baldwin, a granddaughter of "Lucky" Baldwin. The building currently houses the Tallac Museum, Baldwin Museum and the Washoe Exhibit. The nearby guest cabins offer art exhibits and workshops during the summer.

Baldwin Estate Washoe Exhibit
The Washoe Indian Cultural Foundation Exhibit is located in the Baldwin Museum. The Washoe display includes housing, artifacts, pictures and a slide presentation. Visit the area the Washoe called home in the summer months. The Baldwin Museum, Washoe Gardens and special programs offer an opportunity to learn about the Washoe culture.

Courtesy Note
For more information about the Washoes, write or call:

Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California
Archive & Cultural Center
861 Crescent Drive
Carson City, NV 89701


Pope Estate (1894)
The Pope house was built in 1894 by George Talant. In 1899, it was sold to Lloyd Tevis. His son, Will, expanded and remodeled it into the largest and most luxurious of the area. It was purchased by George Pope in 1923. This oldest estate is also the largest and most elaborate. As the interpretive center for the site, special programs and guided tours in the many buildings, gardens and grounds are available. The Pope Estate is home for The Great Gatsby Festival each year in August.

Valhalla Estate (1923)
Walter Heller built Valhalla in 1924 and entertained guests during the summer months for about twenty years. Eventually the estate was sold in 1965 to the South Tahoe Valhalla Corporation, whose attempt to turn it into a private club failed. With its large lawn, large hall and large stone fireplace, Valhalla is popular for public and private gatherings.

Call for information about tours, programs and special events.

Tallac Historic Site
USDA Forest Service Visitor Center
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
870 Emerald Bay Road
South Lake Tahoe
SR 89, near Fallen Leaf Lake




Emigrant Trail Museum
The museum was completed in 1962 after 15 years of effort by local citizens, park staff members and legislators. Open all year, the museum includes exhibits about the natural history of the Truckee Basin area, local Indian life, the overland immigration of the 1840s, the Donner tragedy, construction of the transcontinental railroad, lumbering and ice harvesting. Books, postcards, posters and maps can be purchased.

Pioneer Monument
Located near the museum, the monument was erected in honor of all those who made the difficult trek across the western plains and mountains to reach California during the 1840s. Work on the monument began in 1901 when the Native Sons of the Golden West purchased the site and constructed the stone base on which the bronze statue stands today. The monument was officially completed and officially dedicated June 6, 1918.

This is the site of the Breen Cabin, one of the structures used by members of the Donner Party during the winter of 1846-1847. The Murphy Cabin site is located about 100 yards south of the museum.

A gentle, self-guiding nature trail starts near the museum and makes a loop through the forest. An easy mile-long lakeside interpretive trail starts in the lagoon portion of the day-use area and continues along Donner Lake.

Several times a week throughout the summer, guided hikes start at the museum. They range from one or two hours in length to more ambitious all-day hikes. Campfire programs start at dark. Details and a schedule of interpretive programs can be obtained by contacting the park staff.

Emigrant Trail Museum
Pioneer Monument
Donner Memorial State Park
12593 Donner Pass Road




The North Lake Tahoe Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation, study and presentation of Lake Tahoe History. It built the Gatekeeper's Museum and maintains the Gatekeeper's Museum, the Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum, William B. Layton Park and the nearby Watson Cabin Museum.

Gatekeeper's Museum
Situated among ancient conifers on the south bank of Lake Tahoe's only outlet, the museum was built in 1981 with funds raised by the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society. The hand-carved log cabin is built from lodgepole pines. It stands on the same foundation as the original Gatekeeper's Cabin, which was destroyed by a fire in 1978.

The original log cabin, built between 1910 and 1913, served as the home of the resident gatekeeper whose duties included the measuring and regulation of Tahoe's water level within legally prescribed limits. Between 1910 and 1968, five different men are known to have held the position of gatekeeper, each one in turn occupying the cabin while carrying out the duties of the position. In 1968, the decision to raise or lower Tahoe's water level became the province of the Federal Watermaster's Office in Reno, though the physical process of raising and lowering the 17 gates of the dam continues to be carried out at this location.

The Museum features the history of Lake Tahoe including Indian artifacts, natural history displays, stories of our pioneers and the Ellen Attardi Library --a research library which includes books, oral histories, newspapers and photographs. Revolving displays are presented each summer from private collections along with permanent reading and photo displays.

Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum
The Edmund S. Barnett wing of the Gatekeeper's Museum houses the Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Collection. Marion Steinbach's lifelong interest in Native American art and culture led her to study and collect representative baskets and artifacts. By the time of her death in 1991, she had gathered over 800 rare and diverse baskets from over 85 tribes, dolls, artifacts and a Southwestern pottery collection --all fully described and documented --and a native American research library. It was her intent to collect a variety of basket and artifact types from as many tribes as possible, and the woven works range in size from burden baskets measuring nearly three feet in diameter to highly detailed miniatures as small as 1/4 inch. Adding to the intriguing diversity of the collection are such artifacts as gambling trays and caribou hoof rattles.

Edmund S. Barnett, for whom the museum wing which houses the basket collection was named, also passed away in 1991. For more than 30 years he had practiced law in Incline Village and selflessly devoted his free time and multiple talents to countless civic causes on the North Shore and beyond. He had been an active member and supporter of the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society since its inception, serving as its president, attorney and dauntless guiding light.

The museums are open between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.:
May 1 to June 15, Wednesday thru Sunday
June 15 to Labor Day, Daily
September - Wednesday thru Sunday
October to April - Weekends only between 11:00a.m to 3:00p.m.

The North Lake Tahoe Historical Society's
Gatekeeper's Museum & Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum
William B. Layton Park
130 West Lake Blvd.
Tahoe City


Watson Cabin Museum
This honeymoon cottage with original furnishings is the oldest structure standing in Tahoe City. It was built by Robert Montgomery Wilson between 1908 and 1909. It even had the city's first indoor private bathroom! The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum is open daily for tours between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. June 15 through Labor Day.

Watson Cabin Museum
560 North Lake Blvd.
Tahoe City




1960 VIII Olympic Winter Games Museum
On Thursday, February 18, 1960, under storm-threatening skies, the greatest winter athletes in the world gathered in Squaw Valley. As the sun broke through briefly, 2,000 pigeons were released into the air. A throng of 1,000 competitors and 20,000 spectators stood hushed as the Olympic Torch completed a 9,000 mile odyssey from Europe and was placed in front of the Tower of Nations. Following the Olympic Oath and the Star Spangled Banner, Avery Bundy declared the Games "open" while the sky erupted into a kaleidoscope of fireworks and colorful balloons. Thus began the VIII Olympic Winter Games at Squaw Valley.

At that time, the 1960 Winter Games were the largest ever held, with 34 nations competing in 15 Alpine and ski jumping events, 8 speed skiing contests, 3 figure skating competitions and 28 hockey matches. Making its Olympic debut was the women's speed skiing and the men's biathlon, a combination of Nordic skiing and rifle marksmanship.

The Squaw Games were highlighted by many other Winter Olympic "firsts." They were the first Winter Games to be nationally televised and to house the athletes in their own Olympic Village. For the first time in winter Olympic history artificial refrigeration was utilized for speed skating events and electronic computers were used to tally results.

The VIII Winter Olympics propelled Squaw Valley into the world spotlight and spurred a tremendous growth in winter sports -- especially Alpine skiing. Thanks to the daring and vision of Alexander C. Cushing, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Squaw Valley Ski Corporation, Tahoe has never been the same -- it has only become better!

While vacationing in Lake Tahoe, take some time to visit the Olympic Winter Games Museum. The large expanses of glass windows and spaciousness encourage you to view the outdoor scenery, relax with a book and leisurely browse the glass showcases and displays that contain all manner of memorabilia from the 1960 VIII Olympic Winter Games.

High Camp
Squaw Valley USA
1960 Squaw Valley Road
Olympic Village

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