Donner Lake State Park

Donner Lake State Park. This park is a must see, especially if you are curious about the history of the Donner Party. This truly was the dark side of the California dream for the Donner Party. The park is located near Truckee, California.

Donner Lake (Photo by RSheridan)

There is the Emigrant Trail Museum – contains exhibits about the history of the area from the Native Americans to the  Donner Party to the builders of the transcontinental railroad.

Outside the museum is the Pioneer Monument and the Donner Party’s Murphy family cabin site. The base of the monument measures 22 feet high, the height of the snow during the winter of 1846-1847. The Donner camp site at Alder Creek (the area where the families were trapped in the winter of 1846-47) has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Click here for a larger view.
Pioneer Monument (Photo by RSheridan)


Driving through Donner Pass is a marvel as to how two roads (US Route 40 & Interstate 80) were ever built and the amazing technology used on I-80 to keep the road maintained in the winter months. For the pioneers it must have been daunting, dangerous and sadly deadly (for the Donner Party).

There is camping and hiking available at the park. If you have the time, take the Interpretive Trail by the museum (about 2.5 miles round trip). The museum offers visitors a trail guide.

Take a drive along the lake and continue onto the Donner Memorial Bridge (also called Rainbow Bridge). There is a parking area before the bridge that offers a great view of Donner Lake. The bridge is part of historic US Route 40 which was the primary east-west highway for motorists until Interstate 80 was constructed in 1964.

People are curious by nature then you add cannibalism to the mix and you wonder folk lore or true story. I will let you make your own conclusions pertaining to the Donner Party.

The area has a tragic past, however; there is beauty here too. The granite formations are amazing, the water features are abundant, and then you may get a sneak peak of the local wildlife in this area.


About cravesadventure

I love to adventure to new places to create new life experiences. View all posts by cravesadventure

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