The Best Kept Secret at Lake Tahoe

by Dylan DeMichiel /
Dylan DeMichiel's picture
Nov 03, 2013 / 0 comments

Lake Taho is the North American continent’s largest alpine lake and the highest lake of its size in the United States. It stretches 22 miles long, 12 miles wide, and has 72 miles of shoreline. These spectacular sapphire blue waters are located 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, California.


Lake Tahoe


Lake Tahoe is the third deepest lake in North America, and tenth deepest in the world. It holds 41 trillion gallons of water. If it was to be completely drained, it would take over 700 years to refill. Amazingly, this lake never freezes over in the winter. There are 63 streams that flow into this incredible body of water. One of these streams, located on the south edge of Lake Tahoe, is Taylor Creek.


Taylor Creek, Lake Tahoe


Taylor Creek is home to one of the best kept secrets in Tahoe. The red Kokanee salmon swim up the creek to find a place to spawn, just as their larger cousins do in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. The Kokanee are fresh-water salmon, measuring only about 14 inches long. They are much smaller than those found in the northern waters.


Red Kokanee Salmon, Lake Tahoe


Every October, this annual ritual brings about 50,000 salmon to the area.


Red Kokanee Salmon, Lake Tahoe


Female spawning Kokanee turn dull pink and green and are full of 400-1200 eggs.


Red Kokanee Salmon, Lake Tahoe


Males become bright red and grow a hump-back and kype, or hooked jaw, for defending their territory. Both males and females travel up Taylor Creek to find a place to spawn and die.


Red Kokanee Salmon life cycle, Lake Tahoe

Kokanee Salmon Life Cycle


Lake Tahoe


In 1944, it is believed that the salmon were accidentally released into Lake Tahoe when the holding ponds overflowed at the Tahoe City Fish Hatchery.


Salmon, Lake Tahoe


Since these small salmon were ideally suited to the cool lake water, in 1949 they were introduced into the tributary streams.


Salmon in Lake Tahoe tributary streams


Along with the hordes of salmon came black bears, merganser ducks, and other predators seeking to feed off the passing fish.


Taylor Creek, Lake Tahoe - salmon


At Taylor Creek, the life of the Kokanee salmon begins and ends when they return to their birthplace to spawn and die.





Dylan DeMichiel is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


All photos courtesy and copyright Dylan DeMichiel