Lake Tahoe Feeling the Effects of Over-tourism

Alex Mangels |
Lake Tahoe over tourism
Lake Tahoe is a hugely popular tourist destination, but locals are seeing the effects of it. Credit:

Starting last March, cities across the world became far less busy than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. With various shelter-in-place and lockdown orders in effect, traffic greatly decreased. Lake Tahoe, however, has seen a level of over-tourism unmatched by many other destinations. The crowds of people coming in and out of Tahoe have affected the lake and its recreational resources over the last year.

Lake Tahoe has been a popular destination for decades. Crowds of people from Northern California and Northwestern Nevada flock to the lake each year. Many of these people own second homes around the lake, while others return to their favorite rentals each year. The lake towns have always relied on the economic benefits of tourism. Recently, the negative effects have taken their toll on its environment.

Lake Tahoe litter
Volunteers pick up trash along Lake Tahoe’s shoreline. Credit: The League to Save Lake Tahoe

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Tahoe went from over-tourism to no tourism in a quick fashion. But once the summer months began, people who had been cooped up in houses and apartments for months began arriving in droves. The realization that outdoor destinations like Tahoe were the only escapes from shuttered cities brought all sorts of people. Unfortunately, many of these visitors were not the usual stewards of the environment that Tahoe attracts. With trash littering the beaches, trails, and even the side of the road, locals became fed up and took matters into their own hands while also calling upon officials to take action.

The lack of respect for the Sierra and their natural beauties stirred locals to create the Truckee Tahoe Litter Group on Facebook. Their initiative was to get local agencies to step up and address the issue. So far, they have coordinated volunteer trash collections in the area. Unfortunately, state and local governments do not currently have the funds to staff people to take care of the litter, but the group hopes to change that.

Zooming out and looking at the bigger picture could also prove effective. Traditionally, Tahoe tourism has focused on marketing the destination to attract more people. Shifting the focus to destination management can create a more sustainable tourism economy at the lake. Finding ways to allow people to enjoy the lake’s natural beauty while maintaining its integrity should be the focus from now on.

Lake Tahoe Overtourism
Lake Tahoe. Credit: Cropbot / Wikipedia Commons

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3 thoughts on “Lake Tahoe Feeling the Effects of Over-tourism

  1. It’s entertaining to see all the “locals” complaining about people who own homes in the area actually using their properties. The pandemic caused a permanent shift in the office environment and despite your best hopes it will not go back to what it was before. Also unfortunately with a little bit of global warming and the ability to pay for snow removal, the less frequent big dumps aren’t going to chase these people away.

    It’s time for your well intentioned anti-development, anti-growth, anti-progress policies to go by the way side. Little did you know that by preventing new development, new ski resorts, and mediocre old A-frame style cabins all you were doing was preventing normal folk from owning a piece of the mountain dream.

    I’m 3rd generation Tahoe. My family has been here since the 60’s. We were here before 95% of you, pre-TRPA, pre-Keep Squaw True, pre-KSL, pre-Martis Camp, pre-AirBnB pre-everything you hate.

    Tahoe will never go back to what it was. It will never get close. I want to thank everyone who prevented new development of ski resorts, housing, apartments along the way. You made the developed and developable land extremely valuable during the process. And accidently you forced out the normal folk.

    Now only the Rich will be able to afford Tahoe. And its going to get much worse.

  2. One big winter is pretty good at thinning out the “city folks “ it’s easy to leave Sunday night when you’re a tourist but when your stuck in your driveway midweek it loses its charm real quick.
    It can’t be that hard to pick up your own garbage and park normal , seriously !

  3. It’s not so much the tourists creating the problems but more so the “new locals” aka zoomers, aka city folk, aka well-to-doers, aka riggers, aka obscenely rich people that can afford to just pack up and leave and buy a nice mountain “cabin” when things get a little too “scary” for them in the city.

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