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The latest periods of extensive ice cover in the Sierra Nevada include the Tahoe glaciation followed by the Tioga glaciation, and evidence for these ice ages is widespread in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks area. However, the timing of the advances and retreats of the glaciers during the periods of glaciation continues to be a matter of debate. A compilation of existing work (Clark and others, 2003) defines the Tioga glaciation at 14-25 thousand years ago and splits the Tahoe glaciation into two stages that range from 42-50 and 140-200 thousand years ago. The extent of the Tahoe ice mass shown in the map area is considered to represent the younger Tahoe stage, 42-50 thousand years ago.
Evidence of glaciations older than the Tahoe is limited in the southern Sierra Nevada. After the Tioga glaciation, only minor events with considerably less ice cover occurred. The Tioga glaciation was slightly less extensive than the Tahoe glaciation, and each covered about half of the area of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The Tahoe glaciers extended 500-1,000 ft lower and 0.5-1.2 mi farther down valleys. Evidence for the Tahoe glacial limits is not as robust as that for Tioga, but the extent of the Tahoe ice is mapped because it covered a larger area and the ice did leave prominent moraines (piles of sediment and boulders deposited by glaciers as they melted at their margins) lower on the east front of the range.
Current Sierra redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) groves occur in a belt on the west side of the Sierra Nevada, generally west of the area of Tahoe glaciation.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Map Showing Limits of Tahoe Glaciation in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California