Support Great Basin Institute in Serving Public Lands in the West

Aerial view of Mt. Tallac over Lake Tahoe Basin
Taylor Creek Visitor Center Logo

WELCOME TO LAKE TAHOE!

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center serves as the informational gateway to outdoor recreation experiences in the Tahoe Basin and as an interpretative center for local flora, fauna, and human and natural history. Since 1964, the USDA Forest Service and its partners have seasonally operated the site to promote education, recreation and environmental stewardship. Visitor services typically start around Memorial Day and end in October; however, the grounds remain accessible throughout the year for winter recreation.

LAKE TAHOE FAST FACTS

  • ELEVATION: Average 6,224 feet above sea level.
  • DEPTH: 1,645 feet (or 0.3113 miles) at its deepest point.
  • LENGTH: About 22 miles
  • WIDTH: 12 miles
  • MILES OF SHORELINE: 72 miles
  • WATER CAPACITY: 37 trillion gallons. Enough to cover the state of California in a little over a foot of water. 
  • AVERAGE SURFACE TEMPERATURE: 63 degrees F
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SITE INFORMATION

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center will open for the season on Saturday, May 28th, 2022. Visitor services will be available:

SUNDAY
9am-4pm

MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY
closed

THURSDAY, FRIDAY, SATURDAY
9am-4pm

PHONE: 530-543-2674

ADDRESS:
Visitor Center Road, CA-89N, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

SOCIAL MEDIA

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PARTNERSHIPS

The Great Basin Institute
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
National Forest Foundation
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Staff & Volunteers

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is operated by GBI and LTBMU staff and interns, as well as volunteers. Both organizations hire seasonal roles in support of the site. For more information, check www.usajobs.gov or www.thegreatbasininstitute.org. Currently, the Great Basin Institute is actively recruiting Wildfire Community Outreach Educators to serve in AmeriCorps positions this summer, 2022. Interested individuals are encouraged to apply soon. Seasonal staff is heavily recruited throughout the fall and spring.

Importantly, it is with the dedicated support of local and RV volunteers that Taylor Creek continues to serve the Lake Tahoe community and its visitors. Are you interested in volunteering at Taylor Creek? Send an email to tcvc@thegreatbasininstitute.org to learn more about our RV volunteer program. Locals are always welcomed!

TAYLOR CREEK CONTACTS

Taylor Creek Visitor Center

Supervisor’s Office
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

  • Phone: 530-543-2600
  • Address: 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

*hours of operations vary; no public access at this time

The Great Basin Institute

Visitor Center RESOURCES

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center staff is knowledgeable in area information and can assist with your recreation planning. On-site staff consists of a mix of local volunteers, Forest Service and Great Basin Institute employees. Many have lived and worked in the Tahoe Basin for decades and love to share their insights with visitors.  

 

The building interior is small, yet offers interpretative displays and exhibits, as well as a gift shop. Depending on requirements, Desolation Wilderness passes may be purchased on site as well as America the Beautiful passes. The visitor center cannot make any campground reservations or sell annual beach parking passes, however staff can call and check availability for campers.

The Visitor Center parking has ample space with RV and trailer capacity. Parking is free and is generally accessible from May to mid-November. No overnight parking or camping is permitted.

 

Bathrooms are also available, during hours of operation.

Visitors are welcomed to make purchases in the gift shop during hours of operation. Available items include outdoor gear and apparel, maps, Lake Tahoe souvenirs and gifts, as well as pre-packaged snack foods. Guide books and Smokey Bear swag are TCVC gift shop staples.

First opened in the late 1960s, the Stream Profile Chamber provides a unique, educational experience within the Tahoe Basin. Built adjacent to the creek, water was diverted to fill a pond for wildlife viewing. Visitors walk underground to see a profile of the creek, creating a natural aquarium effect. Animals such as beavers, bullfrogs, rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon can all be viewed at certain times of the year, not to mention a diversity of waterfowl.

 

Unfortunately, due to vandalism, the Stream Profile Chamber has not been open much in the last five years. The chamber glass has been broken on two occasions, resulting in expensive and difficult repairs. Plans to replace the glass and open the chamber are in process for the 2022 season, and we are hopeful to reopen to the public.

The amphitheater is a picturesque space for outdoor events and programming. During July and August, free evening programs are held here, on topics such as resident wildlife, Tahoe folklore, and astronomy. With more than 30 benches and additional lawn seating, the amphitheater comfortably accommodates 200+ guests and is ADA accessible. This facility may also be used for informal public recreation, such as picnicking or stargazing.

 

Large groups and organizations may request to reserve the Lake of the Sky Amphitheater as a day or evening event space. Reservation fee is dependent on type of usage and event duration, with a minimum pricing of $100. Certain event activities are not permitted at Taylor Creek. For more information, or to reserve a date, please contact egavlock@thegreatbasininstitute.org or call 530-543-2674.

Currently, public wifi is not available and cell phone service is unreliable, especially around the visitor center patio. For best reception, head towards the lakeshore or towards highway 89. If necessary, visitor center staff can make a phone call on your behalf.

Bike racks are provided in front of the visitor center building, Kiva Beach entrance, and Rainbow Trail entrance from the bike path. Riding through the patio and Rainbow Trail are prohibited. Visitors can easily bike from Taylor Creek to nearby beaches such as Kiva, Pope and Baldwin. Those who bike into Pope and Baldwin beaches are not required to pay the entry fee.

TRAILS

Taylor Creek’s trails are all fairly flat and easy. Due to sandy soils, some are difficult for biking. For longer and more adventurous routes, visitor center staff can help guide you to nearby destinations, such as Desolation Wilderness or the Tahoe Rim Trail. (No pack or motorized use permitted at Taylor Creek.)

Paved/boardwalks through the Taylor Creek Marsh; interpretative. *No bikes.

Short interpretative trail for kids and families. *No bikes.

Shaded, interpretative walk to Lake Tahoe and Kiva Beach

Extends along the shore from Kiva Beach to Camp Richardson

The paved bike path winds through SLT neighborhoods to Baldwin Beach.

Diagonal path through the forest; a short-cut to the Tallac Historic Site.

Short interpretative walk of the Jeffrey pine life cycle. *No bikes.

AUDIO TOUR

The National Forest Foundation will implement a new audio tour in 2022. Accessible via smartphone, the audio tour will guide visitors on trails throughout the site and provide in-depth interpretation about human and natural history, as well as the environment. This tour will be available in English and Spanish.

KIVA BEACH

Visitors can swim, paddle, walk or just relax at Kiva Beach and Tallac Point. Take the Lake of the Sky trail from the visitor center, or park at the Kiva Beach Parking (space is limited; no oversized vehicles.) Dogs are allowed, however they must be on a leash at all times, per El Dorado County law. Visitors and their pets should not enter the Taylor Creek marsh, as this is a fragile and protected watershed area. No fires are permitted on any Lake Tahoe beaches.

Picnicking

The visitor center has two picnic areas, with several tables in each. Visitors can also use the many benches surrounding the patio for picnicking.

PROGRAMS

Free interpretative programs and guided walks are available throughout the summer, in addition to special evening speaker events. All programs begin at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center patio, unless otherwise stated. Presentation topics will be updated throughout the summer! The 2022 tentative schedule is as follows:

JUNE to OCTOBER

Friday

Rainbow Trail Walk

11am-11:45am

Saturday

Rainbow trail walk

11am-11:45am

Sunday

Guided Walk

10am – 11am

Group Tours & Interpretative Programs

Specialized group tours are available by request and cost $10/person. Learn about the historical importance of the area, Lake Tahoe ecology, or both. Call or email for more information and to make reservations! If you are planning to bring a large group to the site and self-tour, please coordinate with staff.

Student Programs

With the annual return of the Kokanee salmon, fall is a popular time for Taylor Creek, bringing wildlife spectators from all around as well as school groups. The Great Basin Institute is working to reestablish student-based programming at Taylor Creek and looks forward to serving the region’s schools this fall! Please contact the visitor services administrator for information and scheduling, egavlock@thegreatbasininstitute.org.

Evening Amphitheater events

July & August, 2022

The Great Basin Institute is pleased to announce the return of evening programs at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center! Events are held at the Lake of the Sky Amphitheater, just behind the visitor center building. Programs are free to attend, however a $5 donation to the site is encouraged. Check our schedule below for updates!

July 1 - an evening with mark Twain, 6:00pm - 7pm

July 8 - birds of Taylor Creek, 7pm - 8pm

july 15 - Winged flight at night (bats), 8:30pm - 9:30pm

August 5 - John "Snowshoe" Thompsong, 7:00pm - 8:00pm

FLORA & FAUNA

FAUNA

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are home to a variety of animals, some of which you might have the opportunity to see at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. Below are some of the most commonly seen, or discussed, animals at Taylor Creek.

MAMMALS

Walking along the Rainbow Trail, the impact from beavers is readily visible; tree stumps and gnawed logs are found at every turn. Our local colony has constructed a few large dams and is always on the move. However, despite how busy they are, they are seldom seen by visitors. Beavers prefer to work during the hours when many of us are going to bed or waking up in the morning.

Lake Tahoe’s black bear population has received national recognition for their “friendly” behaviors with humans. While it’s exciting to see these creatures, it’s important for their safety and survival that everyone follows proper guidelines when visiting bear country:

 

  • Never leave food visible in your car
  • Never leave food in your tent or take food into your tent at night
  • Never leave a cooler or other food unattended, whether it’s on the beach or at your campsite
  • Never leave garbage out at night or unattended
  • Always use bear lockers, when available
  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Do not walk towards a bear to get a better view
  • Do not walk towards a bear to get a better picture
  • Do not run away, do not climb a tree
  • Hike with a partner and make yourself known while walking in dense vegetation 

 

Black bears are frequently seen on Taylor Creek trails. If you see one, please report it to on-site staff with a description of the bear.

Taylor Creek has a number of squirrel and chipmunk species, however you are most likely to encounter gray squirrels, golden-mantled ground squirrels or lodgepole chipmunks. They are important to the Tahoe ecosystem, helping to spread seeds, and are prey for larger animals. Although not typically thought of as dangerous animals, rodents are high transmitters of diseases, including hantavirus and plague.

 

In 2021, a Taylor Creek lodgepole chipmunk tested positive for bubonic plague. While human infections are rare and treatable today, you can help mitigate problems: never feed squirrels or chipmunks! Do not let them near your belongings and avoid leaving food behind for them to eat.

Omnivorous and adaptable, coyotes are certainly present in the vicinity of Taylor Creek. Following their snouts to food, they can be heard communicating with each other at night and may make appearances on site unexpectedly. While not much of a safety concern to humans, off leash dogs could have problems and so it is important to monitor and leash your pets at all times.

BIRDS

Skilled fishermen, bald eagles are typically seen from the Kiva Beach area during the summer and fall months. They may perch along the creek and near the lake, looking for a meal, or soar over the shoreline. Please do not walk into the marsh or let your dog into this area, as it disturbs eagles and other hunters.

Ospreys are identified by their white underbellies, and “m-shaped” bodies while in flight. Though smaller than eagles, ospreys are arguably better suited to the fishing lifestyle. Their feet consist of tiny barbs, and they have a rotating talon to further subdue prey. Like bald eagles, ospreys may be seen from the mouth of Taylor Creek and along the Lake Tahoe shore.

Cousin to crows and ravens, Steller’s jays are just as intelligent when it comes to finding an easy meal. They hang close to the visitor center where crumbs and wrappers wait to be picked up. Steller’s jays are forest-dwelling birds, distinguished by their bright blue bodies and black mohawks.

FISH

Native to Lake Tahoe, this species is not likely to be found within the lake today. Before human expansion, Lahontan cutthroat trout were bountiful and also big–30 pounds big. However due to the introduction of non-native and invasive species, overfishing and changes to their habitat, LCT dramatically declined. Through a successful reintroduction program, a new population of LCT currently lives in Fallen Leaf Lake today.

In the 1940s, Kokanee salmon were purposefully introduced into the Lake Tahoe ecosystem. A non-anadromous fish, this species spends its whole life in freshwater. Since their introduction, Kokanee salmon have primarily spawned in Taylor Creek, loving the pebbly creek bottom. Each fall, more than 20,000 salmon return to the stream to mate and die. The Kokanee have become a big attraction at Taylor Creek, prompting an annual Fish Festival which brings domestic and international travelers to the site.

REPTILES

Few reptiles live here due to the harsh conditions of alpine life. Most commonly seen reptiles are small snakes, such as rubber boas and western garter snakes. Western fence lizards can also be seen darting through the understory, or sunning on some rocks.

AMPHIBIANS

Bullfrogs are an invasive species to Lake Tahoe and can be readily seen within the creek and marsh. Typically, their green heads poke just above the water, with their brown bodies underneath. Bullfrogs are a nuisance here, as they compete with native amphibians, such as the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog, for resources.

FLORA

Depending on which habitat you’re standing in (meadow, marsh, forest), the plant community around you will alter. Taylor Creek has an array of vegetative biodiversity, with various species of grasses and sedges, wildflowers, willows and trees. Below are some of the most commonly noticed members of the surrounding plant community. This is just a small sampling–stop by to learn and see more!

TREES

Most likely, the tree you’re looking at is a Jeffrey pine. This species is the most common tree within the Tahoe Basin and is found in all stages of its life cycle at Taylor Creek. They are distinguished by their large, squat pine cones, needles, and smell–yes, smell. For those who have not yet whiffed the bark of a Jeffrey pine, you’re in for a treat! Many say the aroma is similar to vanilla or butterscotch. 

 

Jeffrey pines have large cones and needles that come in long bundles of three. For professional and amateur dendrologists (tree researchers), knowing these two facts greatly helps identify pine species.

A deciduous tree, the quaking aspen grows in clonal colonies in riparian habitats. Their light-colored bark is fragile, and frequently becomes the canvas for graffiti “artists” and bear claws. Take a walk on the Rainbow Trail to see these trees up close and learn about some of their struggles for existence in the Tahoe Basin.

Incense cedars are long-lived trees (approx. 500 years) and are well-adapted to California’s fire and drought conditions. Their leaves are often described as “scale-like” and are similar in appearance to sequoia or juniper trees. Cedars have been used for many purposes, from medicines and building materials to garden decoration. A few young incense cedars can be found right outside the visitor center doors.

This species’ population has increased since the devastation of clear-cut logging in the 19th century. An adaptable shade grower, white firs can outcompete others for prime Tahoe real estate. They are distinguished by their lower hanging branches, grayish bark and needles, which are not bundled.

SHRUBS

After Jeffrey pines, the most noticeable plant at Taylor Creek is sagebrush, growing densely throughout the forest. Sagebrush is light green in color, woody, and can grow up to 9ft. tall. While the leaves of this plant have a strong and delightful smell, it is toxic for human ingestion.

Growing comfortably next to sagebrush, rubber rabbitbrush is in the same family (Aster). While it does not grow as tall, rubber rabbitbrush blooms vibrant yellow flowers in late summer/early fall and was traditionally used to make dye by Native Americans. Its stems are not as rigid, and its shape is more fanned.

PERENNIALS

In late spring and early summer, the mule’s ears’ bright yellow flower is prevalent within the forest understory. Unsurprisingly, it’s part of the sunflower family. The subalpine elevation of Lake Tahoe reaches this species’ maximum growth threshold. The common name comes from the shape and texture of its’ leaves, which reminded people of a mule’s ear.

A shocking sight to see for those unfamiliar with it, snow plant is a deep red, cylindrical-shaped plant that typically grows near tree roots and trunks. While interesting to see above ground, it’s even more fascinating below: snow plant is actually a parasite, feeding off the ever-important mycorrhizal fungi network that has a mutually beneficial relationship with trees.

This plant is well-established in the Taylor Creek marsh and is easily identifiable during the growing season. Its corn-like stalks can reach 3ft. in height, with a white flower that blooms in summer (which resembles a lily, hence the inventive name). While pretty to admire, this plant is also highly toxic and is known to cause birth defects in animals that consume it.

TAYLOR CREEK PARTNERSHIP WITH THE GREAT BASIN INSTITUTE

Since 2018, the Great Basin Institute has served as the interpretative association for the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. Through collaboration with the Forest Service, GBI provides interpretative programming, special speaker events, gift shop sales, land management support and more. The Great Basin Institute’s visitor services program includes the Tallac Historic Site (adjacent to Taylor Creek) and Galena Creek Visitor Center in Reno, NV.

TAYLOR CREEK PARTNERSHIP WITH LAKE TAHOE BASIN MANAGEMENT UNIT

Did you know that roughly 78% of land surrounding Lake Tahoe is owned by the USDA Forest Service? In response to devastating logging practices during the Comstock Era (1850-1890s), the federal government moved to preserve and restore Lake Tahoe forests, simultaneously providing public land for multiple uses. Until 1973, the basin was managed by three different National Forests, the Tahoe, Eldorado and Humboldt-Toiyabe. To improve land supervision, chunks from those forests were joined to create the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. 

Today, the LTBMU is approximately 155,000 acres in size and provides public access to wilderness areas, beaches, fishing opportunities, backcountry hiking and camping, picnicking, biking, and cultural and educational centers.

TAYLOR CREEK PARTNERSHIP WITH NATIONAL FOREST FOUNDATION

The NFF is a non-profit organization created to supplement resource gaps for work and stewardship in our National Forests. At Taylor Creek, the NFF has spearheaded creation of a new audio tour, provided funding and project development for the Stream Profile Chamber repairs and other maintenance needs, and has been pivotal in watershed restoration efforts.