Western Trips

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Tahoe Maritime Center – Museum & Gardens

The Tahoe Maritime Museum is a tribute and showcase for Lake Tahoe's classic wooden boat history. High in the Sierra Nevada range at Tahoe City, California is a unique museum that chronicles the history of wood boats.

tahoe maritime museum
Tahoe Maritime Center
The Tahoe Maritime Museum maintains a program of permanent and annually rotating exhibits that present stories and artifacts of Tahoe’s maritime past. 

These exhibits are open to the public year-round, and highlight the histories of Tahoe’s people and places. The museum's stated goal is to... strive to encourage an interest in, increase knowledge of, and maintain watercraft and marine artifacts significant in Lake Tahoe’s maritime history through the highest standards of historic preservation, innovative interpretation and public education.

Lake Tahoe and the Beautiful Woodies

Woodies had their heyday in Lake Tahoe from the 1920s through the 1950s, longer than in other wealthy enclaves across the country thanks to the number of Civilian Conservation Corps jobs that buoyed the region during the Great Depression. But Tahoe’s love affair with the mahogany runabouts dates back to the early 1900s.

With their rich woods and powerful engines, woodies remain the epitome of luxury and leisure in the modern era of fiberglass and jet engines. Events celebrating the wooden speedboats in Lake Tahoe started nearly as soon as companies stopped making them, with the first Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance held in 1972. 

classic wood boats
Lake Tahoe Concours d’ Elegance

In 1972 a group of Tahoe Yacht Club members and friends got together to share their passion for wooden boats. From this modest beginning, the Lake Tahoe Concours d’ Elegance has grown to play a significant role in the wooden boat community, as well as the Lake Tahoe maritime community.

 Since its induction in 1994 the Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation has hosted the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance focusing on the continuing growth of the show, the quality of boat exhibits, the highest of judging standards and practices, and most importantly, sharing the passion of wooden boats between exhibitors and public.The Museum maintains a program of permanent and annually rotating exhibits that present stories and artifacts of Tahoe’s maritime past.  These exhibits are open to the public year-round, and highlight the histories of Tahoe’s people and places.

Concours dreams and achievements are validated with first, second and third-place awards “in class” and with the presentation of special Perpetual trophies going to the most meticulously-restored, highest-point boats. Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation now has 17 of these special trophies made possible by the generous assistance of endowers, many who have competed and won their own share of precious “Concours silver, crystal, and mahogany” over the past 44 years of this event.


Thunderbird Lake Tahoe is home to America’s most recognizable—and possibly most valuable—wooden speedboat, the venerable Thunderbird yacht. Since America’s Great Depression, Thunderbird has transported guests in opulent luxury between high-mountain estates and luxury resorts.

There is lots to be said about the THUNDERBIRD, which is a 55 foot express speedboat designed by John Hacker and built by Huckins in 1939 for Captain George Whittell, a reclusive millionaire who owned most of Tahoe's east shore at the time.

thunderbird lake tahoe
The Thunderbird was launched on July 14, 1940 at Tahoe Boat Company, where she still lives, and was kept in a boathouse specially built by Whittell. THUNDERBIRD was originally powered by twin Kermath 550 hp engines.

William F. Harrah, who purchased it from Whittell in 1962. Harrah had it transported to his Automobile Collection restoration shop in Reno where it was reverentially refurbished. His workmen added a matching, brushed stainless steel flying bridge and replaced the original Kermath engines with two V-12 Allison aircraft engines, each developing 1100 horsepower. Harrah used it as his private yacht for the entertainment of his casino high-rollers and showroom headliners, such as Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra and Bill Cosby, to name a few. The boat was returned to Reno every winter where the mahogany hull was meticulously sanded down to bare wood and refinished with ten coats of varnish!

Ownership of the yacht was recently transferred to Foundation 36, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Nevada's natural, cultural, and historic treasures. The yacht will now remain berthed in its original boathouse at the Thunderbird Lodge and can be viewed during tours of the old Whittell estate.

lake tahoe boats
High Hopes
High Hopes 

The High Hopes,  is unique in as much as it is the only 19 footer that has three cockpits. These were requester by the boat's owner and was completed at the factory. Built in 1937, the High Hopes has a M2 Chrysler Crown engine. The craft has been beautifull  restored and it's engine rebuilt. The High Hopes home port was Lake Minnetonka.

You may enjoy these additional articles regarding the Lake Tahoe area found on the links below...

Gatekeepers Museum

Little Known History of Lake Tahoe

Vite Vite 

The Vite Vite is considered a classic Lake Tahoe boat. The vessel was built in 1961 and is 16 feet long. The boat has a Chevrolet 283 V-8 engine.

wooden boat builders
Vite Vite from Besotes Boats
The craft was built by Besotes Boats. Besotes Boats were manufactured in Stockton, California.The Besotes brothers originally were building bodies for pick up trucks. They changed over to speed  boat building and were building boats for themselves when customers came around requesting that they build boats for them. It's estimated that from 1950 to 1973 approximately 200 Besotes speedboats were produced.
The Tahoe Maritime Museum is an excellent place to learn all about the wooden boat era at Lake Tahoe and across the country. This article is just a very small sample of the classic wooden boat story. There is much more to learn at the museum. I would recommend a visit to this unique museum anytime your travels take you to beautiful Lake Tahoe.

The museum is located at 401 West Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, CA. For additional information on current exhibits, events, etc, see website www.tahoemaritimemuseum.org. 

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips) 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Marble Falls,Texas in the Scenic Hill Country

There is a falls at Marble Falls, Texas. It is a twenty-two foot ledge of pink Texas marble on the Colorado River, now hidden by Lake Marble Falls. Early travelers referred to these falls as the "great falls" or the "marble falls" of the Colorado River as early as 1817.

shopping marble falls texas
Historic District
Marble Falls is in the scenic Texas Hill Country only about 45 miles west / northwest of Austin and about 85 miles north of San Antonio in Burnet County Texas.

The Founding of Marble Falls 

General Adam R. Johnson traveled to Texas in 1854, viewed the falls and surrounding countryside, and knew he wanted to make Marble Falls his home. He returned to his native Kentucky to fight in the Civil War, tragically losing his eyesight. Never forgetting his dream, Johnson returned to Marble Falls and officially founded the city in 1887.

Historic Main Street District 

Come and experience the unique culture of Historic Downtown Marble Falls. Market Day on Main is the perfect time to get out, explore downtown and shop artisan goods from around the Hill Country.
For exact dates, check on website....www.marblefalls.org/events/2018/marketday. 

uptown theater marble falls
Uptown Theater
Historic Buildings / Uptown Theater

The venue opened in the 1942 and served primarily as an audience hall for traveling entertainment but eventually began showing movies.
“Every town in the old days had a movie theater,” Buster said. “That was the center of the entertainment and social interaction.”

At one point, a fire damaged the building, closing it for a period of time. It re-opened in the 1990s as the Marble Theater. When a multiplex theater opened in town, the venue closed again to be re-opened in 2004 by Buster and Blake, who invested tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades, including renovations of the current Uptown sign uncovered beneath a previous one. They even inherited an old gas-powered projector, weighing thousands of pounds. During the peak of the venue’s success, Buster was booking 40-50 musicians and live shows a year, but the facility has not experienced a resurgence in popularity since then.

The Highland Lakes of Central Texas

Marble Falls is the northern gateway to the Highland Lakes area of Central Texas.

The Highland Lakes  are a chain of seven lakes along Texas' Colorado River beginning  85 miles northwest of Austin and ending in Austin.  The Highland Lakes are named Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Travis, Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake.

The lakes offer excellent recreational activities like boating, water skiing, tubing and fishing.

Longhorn Caverns 

Longhorn Cavern State Park is 645 acres of rugged Texas Hill Country between Marble Falls and Burnet in Burnet County. The state acquired Longhorn Cavern from private owners in 1932 to 1937. The park opened in 1938. Enjoy the walking tour through the caverns where you'll see fascinating stalagmites and stalactites created by seeping water.

marble falls texas attractions
Longhorn Caverns State Park
Longhorn Caverns was used for a variety of purposes during the last two centuries. The cave has provided shelter since prehistoric times. Some of the earliest visitors were the area’s prehistoric peoples. They used the large room next to the main entrance for shelter.

Anglo settlers discovered the cave in the mid 1800's and mined bat guano during the Civil War to make gunpowder for the Confederacy. During the Prohibition era the Main Room in the cavern was used as a speakeasy with music and dancing.

See additional Western Trips articles found on the links below....

Visit Historic Llano Texas

Visit Burnet Texas

Visit Kerrville Texas

lake marble falls
Colorado River / Lake Marble Falls
The Falls on the Colorado Museum

The museum, located in the historic 1891 Granite School on the campus of Marble Falls Elementary School, tells local history of Marble Falls and the surrounding communities. Artifacts, documents, photos, books and culturally important icons and memorabilia on display..

Marble Falls is on the Colorado River at the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and Farm Road 1431, thirteen miles southeast of Burnet in southern Burnet County. 

texas small towns

marble falls texas downtown

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)