Trails become roads around Lake Tahoe
Early travel in the Lake Tahoe basin was along Washoe Indian trails and later along American immigrant trails blazed in the 1840s over the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountain passes. The first roads in the region were little more than improved trails.
Johnson's Pass, named after trailblazer John Calhoun "cock-eyed" Johnson, was the first reliable road over the Sierras. The route followed the American River across the south end of the Tahoe basin. In 1859 it was a teeming thoroughfare between California and Nevada during Virginia City's silver rush.
Several years later, the Lake Bigler Toll Road, near Glenbrook, improved overland travel in the region. However, the most reliable means of travel in the Tahoe basin was still by train or boat. That changed in 1911 when the first automobile was brought to the area.
The Wishbone Highway becomes reality
Construction of the scenic Wishbone Highway began in the 1890s with the labor of Chinese immigrants. They used picks and shovels, dynamite, mule-drawn Fresno scrapers and steam powered shovels to build the road. The last section of roadway constructed was a 200-foot section known as the Cave Rock tunnel that was blasted through in the 1940s.
The completion of Wishbone Highway began the
era of the automobile as the primary form of transformation around Lake Tahoe. By the 1940s traffic accidents increased to the point that local residents called for the first stop signs and road markings. Today over 11 million vehicles travel the historic highway each year.
Fanny Bridge has its name in folklore
According to a story told by columnist David J. Stollery, Jr., in 1928 the road crew foreman gave the name "Fanny McGillicuddy Wilkerson "to the bridge in honor of his maiden aunt. The name was abbreviated over the years to simply "Fanny" Bridge.
However, folklore has it the name derives from more obvious circumstances. Fanny Bridge is built across the Truckee River at the lake's edge. Rainbow trout feeding at the outlet attract rows of people lined up along the bridge and bent over the side for a better look at the trout!