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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Summer 2003 arrow Nevada: Preservation of Cave Rock, Lake Tahoe
Closed Case:
Nevada: Preservation of Cave Rock, Lake Tahoe
Agency: U.S. Forest Service

As reported in the Winter 2003 Case Digest, the Forest Service proposed banning rock climbing at Cave Rock, the neck of an extinct volcano at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, that is eligible for the National Register in part due to its cultural significance to the Washoe Indian Tribe. The rock climbing community values Cave Rock for its high level of difficulty, and some oppose the ban as unfairly singling out rock climbers.

After six years of consulting with stakeholders, receiving 1,400 comments from the public and others, and nearly terminating consultation with the ACHP, the Forest Service issued a record of decision prohibiting all rock climbing on Cave Rock.

Cave Rock, Lake Tahoe, Nevada



Cave Rock, Lake Tahoe, NV (photo USFS)



The decision will provide for maximum protection of the historic and heritage resources inherent at Cave Rock, and will not adversely affect the historic property. It is based on the agency’s desire to protect the historic values associated with Cave Rock as it existed before 1965 when Washoe shaman Henry Rupert practiced religious rituals at the site.

The Forest Service’s decision does not prohibit public activities such as hiking and picnicking because those activities existed prior to 1965 and do not diminish the integrity of Cave Rock as a historic property. Sport climbing at Cave Rock, however, began in the 1980s and is considered offensive to Washoe traditional practitioners.

The ACHP had entered consultation in 1999, and met with the Forest Service, a Department of Justice mediator, and the other consulting parties. The ACHP argued that protecting the qualities that give Cave Rock its historic significance would not violate the First Amendment, as it would not advance religion, nor create a religious place where it did not already exist. Rather, ACHP held that the primary purpose of prohibiting climbing would be to protect the integrity of a historic property.

The rock climbing community is expected to appeal the decision, which it sees as unfairly singling out rock climbers. For background information on this case, see the Winter 2003 Case Digest at

Staff contact: Carol Legard

Updated November 20, 2003

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