SS Tahoe

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The SS Tahoe was a steamship that operated on Lake Tahoe at the end of the 19th century and first half of the 20th. Scuttled in 1940, the wreck presently lies in 400 feet of water off Glenbrook. The wreck was first visited in 2002 by a record-setting high-altitude dive, and as a result became the first maritime site in Nevada to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


By the end of the 19th century, Lake Tahoe had become known as a vacation resort, with a handful of hotels and communities scattered around its shores, serviced by a number of steamers crossing the lake. Lumber magnate Duane L. Bliss ordered the vessel from San Francisco's Union Iron Works in 1894. It was shipped by rail in pieces to Carson City, then by wagon to Glenbrook, reassembled, and launched with much acclaim on June 24, 1896.

At 169 feet, Tahoe was the largest of the lake steamers; she was propelled by two wood-fired engines developing a total of 1200 hp, each driving a three-bladed propeller. Her 200 passengers enjoyed a well-appointed interior, with leather upholstery, carpeting, and marble fixtures in the lavatories. Modern technologies included electric lights and bells, hot and cold running water, and steam heating.

From 1901, Tahoe operated from a railroad pier in Tahoe City during the summers, leaving in the morning, making a daily circuit of the shoreline communities, and returning in late afternoon. In addition to the passengers, she carried freight and mail.

Decline and Sinking

The completion of an automobile road all around the lake in 1926, followed by the loss of the mail contract in 1934, made Tahoe uneconomical to operate, and she lay unused for several years. In 1940, Bliss' son William L. Bliss repurchased the vessel from the operating company; his intent was scuttle her in shallow water off Glenbrook as a memorial to a bygone era, visible to glass bottomed boats. Tahoe was scuttled on August 29, 1940, but the underwater slope was unexpectedly steep at the chosen location, and the ship slid down out of sight, ending up with the bow at 385 feet and the stern at 460 feet.


In 2002, Reno-based group New Millennium Dive Expeditions set a record for both Lake Tahoe and for high-altitude scuba diving in general when they reached the wreck of Tahoe. The information they gathered on the wreck was a crucial part of the documentation enabling Tahoe to be listed as a National Historic Place.