Virtual Event – The Sierra State Parks Foundation is hosting an exciting virtual Sierra Speaker Series about Thunderbird Lodge with long time Community Program Manager, Gary Jesch. The virtual event will take place on April 17 at 5 pm (PST) on the Sierra State Parks Foundation Facebook Page. 

Thunderbird Lodge has a rich history spanning back to the beginning of the 20th century. Wealthy visitors, such as George Whittell Jr, journeyed up from San Francisco to have summer adventures in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The SS Tahoe, one of the most famous Lake Tahoe steamers, played an important role. It transported passengers and mail from Tahoe City, making daily stops at piers on the West Shore, South Lake and the North Shore.

Whittell later became an accidental conservationist when he purchased most of the available land on the Nevada side of Tahoe during the Great Depression and built his own castle on the East Shore. He also built a custom yacht called Thunderbird, and had it delivered just before World War II. Today, it’s considered by many, The Queen of Lake Tahoe. 

“The history and lore of The Lodge and the famous boats that berthed there are an important and fascinating part of Lake Tahoe history that I am honored to share,” points out Jesch. 

Sierra State Parks Foundation’s Communications Manager, Denise Tran, will be interviewing Gary Jesch on the history of Thunderbird Lodge as well as his own experiences visiting and working at the Lodge. Be sure to set your reminders to be there live and interact with our speaker! The recording will also be available on The Sierra State Parks Foundation YouTube page. 

For more information about the Sierra Speaker Series and other events sponsored by the Sierra State Parks Foundation, visit

The Sierra State Parks Foundation believes the Lake Tahoe and Donner area California State Parks are unique treasures worthy of its support. The Foundation funds projects and programming that connects people with the rich natural resource and cultural heritage. Because of SSPF’s work and advocacy, the valuable state parks will continue to be places of inspiration and education for generations to come.