Contact UsStanford Sierra Conference Center
P.O. Box 10618
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158 Physical Address:
130 Fallen Leaf Road
Fallen Leaf, CA 96150
On a calm autumn morning, Fallen Leaf Lake has an almost mirror-like tranquility to it. But as beautiful as it is on the surface, it may be what lies far beneath its gentle ripples that truly sets it apart from other alpine lakes. At over 400 feet deep, the waters of Fallen Leaf have kept a secret for thousands of years: An underwater forest, perfectly preserved.
Only in the last decade have researchers begun to explore the frigid depths of Fallen Leaf. John Kleppe, Professor Emeritus at University of Nevada Reno, is credited with discovery of the forest…and that’s not all. Kleppe found a green jelly-like organism living among the still-standing trees. Researchers have yet to determine what exactly these things are. A brief report ran on NPR a year or so back.
What has attracted the most attention lately, however, is what we can learn from these forests. According to Graham Kent, Director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at UNR, the underwater forest can teach us a lot about megadroughts that hit California throughout the Holocene. “We’ve obtained potentially the most accurate record thus far on the instances of 200-year-long droughts in the Sierra,” Kent said in 2012 UNR media report.
Kleppe has also published a paper on his research, entitled Duration and severity of Medieval drought in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The waters of Fallen Leaf Lake make for some of the best scenery in the Sierras, but it’s the history they hide that is truly fascinating.
Tags: Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Tahoe, Science, Sierra Nevada natural history, underwater forest