TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST
TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, California 95959
Located straddling the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern California, lies the Tahoe National Forest encompassing a vast territory, from the golden foothills on the western slope to the high peaks of the Sierra crest.
Transportation routes and development are major factors in the cultural history of the Tahoe National Forest. To some people, the history of the area begins with the wagons of pioneer emigrants, crossing Donner Pass on their way to California. However, human use and occupancy of what is now the Tahoe National Forest goes back many thousands of years. Peoples of the Washoe and Nisenan tribes and their predecessors utilized these lands for food, water, and recreation. Many of the routes we travel today across the Forest have been used for thousands of years.
The first large influx of emigrants from the United States came into the area began in the 1840s, crossing the mountains in covered wagons toward a better life in Mexican California. Donner Pass, the main emigrant route, was named after the ill-fated Donner Party, who wintered in 1846-47 at camps near the present day Truckee.
THE GOLD RUSH:
The Gold Rush of 1849 resulted in a veritable flood of emigrants seeking their fortunes in California, and many of them prospected the lands of the Tahoe. Many of the foothill towns, such as Foresthill, Nevada City, Downieville, Sierra City, and others, date from Gold Rush days, and there are many reminders of those times throughout the Forest. All historic and archaeological sites are protected under federal and state law.
Between 1862 and 1868, the western portion of the first transcontinental railroad was constructed over the Sierra Nevada at Donner Pass by the Central Pacific Railroad, meeting the tracks of the Union Pacific on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Point Utah. The trans-Sierra route remains a remarkable engineering feat, with roadbed built into granite walls, bridges that cross deep gorges, and tracks that pass through a series of tunnels and snow sheds as they cross the mountains. This rail link with the rest of the United States enabled gold and agricultural products from California to be easily shipped east, as well as bringing manufactured goods and even more settlers west, which fueled the rapid growth of the Golden State. Today's Interstate 80 is roughly parallel to the railroad, and travels the same basic route that people have taken for thousands of years.
THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY:
The first coast to coast highway, the Lincoln Highway, crossed the Sierra Nevadaon its way from New York City to San Francisco, roughly following the route of today's Interstate 80. In this area, the Lincoln Highway was actively maintained between approximately 1913 and 1930, when it was replaced by US 40. This highway was, in turn, replaced by today's Interstate 80 in the mid-1960's. Portions of old 40 and the Lincoln Highway in the Big Bend-Donner Lake area are still open as a scenic route during the summer months.
LAND OF MANY USES:
Timber harvest and mineral extraction began on these lands along with the first influx of settlers, and continue to be important parts of the local economy; however, outdoor recreation and ecotourism has become another one of the major economic influences across the forest, and visitors from all over the world travel to this area for camping, hiking, fishing, skiing, sightseeing, and other recreation opportunities.