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The south shore is dominated by the lake's largest city, South Lake Tahoe, California, which adjoins the town of Stateline, Nevada, while Tahoe City, California, is located on the lake's northwest shore.Although highways run within sight of the lake shore for much of Tahoe's perimeter, many important parts of the shoreline lie within state parks or are protected by the United States Forest Service.It accounts for one third of the water that leaves the lake, the rest evaporating from the lake's vast surface.The flow of the Truckee River and the height of the lake are controlled by the Lake Tahoe Dam at the outlet.The lake was formed about two million years ago as part of the Lake Tahoe Basin, with the modern extent being shaped during the ice ages.It is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides.Lake Tahoe is the youngest of several extensional basins of the Walker Lane deformation zone that accommodates nearly 0.47 in (12 mm) per year of dextral shear between the Sierra Nevada-Great Valley Block and North America.
More than 75% of the lake's watershed is national forest land, comprising the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the United States Forest Service.The natural rim is at 6,223 ft (1,897 m) above sea level, with a spillway at the dam controlling overflow.The maximum legal limit, to which the lake can be allowed to rise in order to store water, is at 6,229.1 ft (1,898.6 m).The Lake Tahoe Watershed (USGS Huc 18100200) of 505 sq mi (1,310 km) includes the land area that drains to the lake and the Lake Tahoe drainage divide traverses the same general area as the Tahoe Rim Trail. These drain an area about the same size as the lake and produce half its water, with the balance entering as rain or snow falling directly on it.The Truckee River is the lake's only outlet, flowing northeast through Reno, Nevada, into Pyramid Lake which has no outlet.
Lake Tahoe is a major tourist attraction in both Nevada and California.