History & Natural History – Kings Beach State Recreation Area

Read below to learn about Kings Beach before it became a State Recreation Area, including how it became a thriving beach town, and why it has some of the warmest waters in Lake Tahoe.

Cultural History

It was the early 1920s when the modern history of Lake Tahoe began. At that time there was only a small community at the south shore and scattered clusters of home sites and resorts along the north and west shores. The handful of year-round residents were snowbound in the basin from November to June each year. Only in the summer months did a few hardy campers and summer homeowners venture over the underdeveloped roads to the lake.

It wasn’t until the development of dependable automobiles and the construction of an all-weather highway that Lake Tahoe’s North Shore became a popular destination. The evolution of the town’s infrastructure gradually increased its accessibility, attracting visitors from far and wide – including a savvy entrepreneur named Joe King.

In 1925, Joe King obtained control of the area’s commercial core from Robert Sherman and Harry Comstock who controlled interests throughout what is now Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach, and Brockway. Joe King was instrumental in transforming Kings Beach into a thriving town, and over the years, the town’s landscape continued to change as the times changed.

Kings Beach soon had various commercial buildings, including a lakefront shopping center. By the 1960s, a bowling alley called the Kings Beach Bowl was built and also used as a concert venue that hosted some of the most iconic bands of that era including Janis Joplin and the Big Brother Holding Company, the Grateful Dead, and Buffalo Springfield. Today, this building is the North Tahoe Event Center – one of the area’s most popular places for weddings.

Photo courtesy of the North Tahoe Event Center.

Natural History

The Kings Beach State Recreation Area features 979 feet of picturesque frontage property along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. Its shallow waters and south-facing shoreline receive direct exposure to the sun throughout the day – making the temperature of the water ideal for swimming and other aquatic activities during the summer.

Did you know that the Sierra State Park’s Foundation helped California State Parks start its first North Tahoe Junior Lifeguard program at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area? Go to the CA State Parks website to learn more.  

Lake Tahoe’s striking cobalt-blue color and pristine clarity lead most to believe that these attributes are one and the same. However, ongoing monitoring of the lake reveals that the color is most closely related to its low concentration of algae, while its clarity is due to the interplay of fine sediment, nutrients, and other particles that it mixes.

Although there are 63 different tributaries that feed into Lake Tahoe, the Upper Truckee River is perhaps the most significant. This section of the river travels through Tahoe’s alpine forests, enriching fish and wildlife habitats. It then enters Lake Tahoe, passes through Reno, and eventually flows into Pyramid Lake. It provides irrigation along Lake Tahoe’s valley and 85 percent of the water is used for homes and businesses in the Truckee Meadows. In addition to sustaining life in the Sierra Nevada, it is also a source of recreation and scientific research.

Fun fact: The Truckee River is Lake Tahoe’s largest tributary and only outlet!