The earliest known inhabitants of the Tahoe Basin were the nomadic predecessors to the Washoe, Maidu and Paiute Indian Tribes. These clans existed during the Middle Archaic Period and reportedly returned to the area seasonally to collect medicinal plants, hunt, fish and create stone tools.
In time, three bands of the peaceful Washoe Indians were regular occupants of the Tahoe shoreline during the summers. They found spiritual significance in the beauty of the Lake and surrounding mountains. Today their descendants are major players in the efforts to conserve the natural habitat. The Washoe Hunting and Fishing Commission, founded in 1978, is responsible for regulating hunting and fishing as well as protecting wildlife and other natural resources.
The first recorded sighting of Lake Tahoe by a European explorer was written by John C. Fremont in February 1844. Legendary explorer Kit Carson was the leader of Fremont’s exploration party. As eastern settlers moved west, the Tahoe region saw an influx of emigrants moving through the area. These western-bound travelers included the infamous Donner Party, who spent the winter of 1846-47 stranded at the eastern end of Donner Lake, a few miles from present-day Truckee. The wagon company, which originally comprised 87 adults and children, lost 42 members to cold and starvation.