Fallen Leaf Lake


A Washoe Indian legend links the formation of Fallen Leaf Lake with the plight of an Indian brave fleeing for his life form the Evil One. According to the story, the Good Spirit had pressed a leafy branch into the warrior's hands, telling him to drop part of it if he was pursued by the Demon. The branch, counseled the Good Spirit, contained magical powers and water would spring up wherever it was dropped.

The Indian started out and, upon reaching the south side of the Great Depression, was panic-stricken to see the Evil One in pursuit. He tried to pluck a leaf, but in his terror snapped off most of the branch instead. To his relief waters began to rise and almost immediately Tahoe (Big Water) lay between him and his pursuer.

Hurrying on up the canyon toward the spot where Fallen Leaf Lake now lies, the brave again glanced over his shoulder. The Fury had circled the newly-formed lake and was rapidly gaining on the young warrior. Fear gripped him anew. In his hand there remained one small twig with only four leaves. He plucked one leaf and threw it from him. With agonizing slowness it fell to the ground. Again water began to rise and "Doolaga" (Fallen Leaf) sprang into being.

With dread still clutching at his heart, he turned and raced on up the ravine, dropping the remaining leaves whenever the Evil Spirit threatened to overtake him. In his path Lily, Grass and Heather lakes rose up to protect him. The warrior crossed the wastes of Desolation Valley and, leaving the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada, found safety in the Great Valley (Sacramento) below.

This fanciful account of Fallen Leaf Lake's formation was accepted for centuries by the native Washoe Indians as the true explanation of its origin.

The lake itself is believed to have been named for the Delaware chief, Falling Leaf, who guided Colonel John Calhoun Johnson (also known as "Cock-Eye" Johnson) during his Tahoe-Sierra explorations in the late 1840's and early 1850's. Johnson and his trail-blazing party viewed the lake's brilliance for the first time from a point northwest of what is now Echo Summit. According to a family descendant of, he found the route from Carson City all the way down to Placerville. In addition to that, Cock-Eye was the first white man to witness Meeks Bay with a reporter from the Placerville Herald. Although Snowshoe Thompson delivered mail over the Sierra for two decades, John Calhoun Johnson was the first to do so.

Fallen Leaf Lake lies at an elevation of 6321 feet - about 90 feet above Tahoe. The lake is about 3 miles in length and a mile wide. The greatest measured depth of this pristine lake is 418 feet. This lake is located south of Emerald bay with Cascade Lake situated in between.

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