Sierra Nevada
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Sierra Nevada Gallery

Lake Tahoe lies on the border between California and Nevada in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains. This section of the Sierra contains the heart of gold country -- the original discovery was made at Sutter's Mill located in the lower left quadrant of the map. Tahoe Inset

The California Trail led thousands of fortune-seekers and settlers westward through passes in the region. Twenty years later, the Transcontinental Railroad was reaching eastward along that route from its origin in Sacramento. Modern travelers continue to follow these historic trails as they travel Interstate 80, US 50, and Rt. 88.

In 1846, the Donner party became snowbound near the pass 14 miles northwest of lake Tahoe, close to modern Interstate 80 at the top center of the map. Other passes, notably Echo Summit (US 50) and Carson pass (Rt 88), lie south of the lake and provided alternate routes through the mountains on the California Trail. learn more

Lake Tahoe and
Northern Sierra Nevada

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Yosemite is one of America's most popular national parks and contains some of the country's most spectacular scenery.Yosemite/Mono Lake inset Its eastern boundary follows the crest of the Sierra Nevada.

To the east, Mono Lake lies at the edge of the Basin and Range geologic province. With no outlet, the lake has accumulated salt and alkali to 2-3 times the concentration of the ocean. Early explorers touted its alkaline waters as a superior laundry cleanser.

Just to the south of Mono Lake, US 120 bends around Mono Craters, an area of lava flows and volcanic dome formations from eruptions 10,000 years ago.

Yosemite and Mono Lake

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At 14,502 feet, Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the lower forty-eight states.Sequoia/Mt. Whitney inset It stands in the middle Sierra Nevada among a range of tall peaks forming the eastern boundary of Sequoia National Park, home of giant redwoods. The treeline is approximately 10,500 feet, so alpine tundra covers the upper slopes of the highest mountains (shown with light color on the map).

The Sierra Nevada cast a rain shadow across the land to the east -- moist air carried by westerly winds seldom crosses the high ranges. Owens valley (the right half of the map) marks the edge of the Mojave desert and the dry Basin and Range geologic province.

Mount Whitney and Owens Valley

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All maps and content Copyright (c) 1999-2001 James R. Irwin.