Let’s take a step back in time and discover the fascinating yet tragic journey of the Donner Party. Although this is already a well known story, you are bound to discover more about the tragedies that occurred at the now Donner Memorial State Park. In the winter of 1846, a group of 87 American pioneers migrated from Illinois to California in a wagon train. Tragedy struck when they got stuck in an early, heavy snowfall near Truckee Lake, now known as Donner Lake, high in the mountains. It took four months for the Californian rescue team to read the stranded, and by then half of the group had already resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating the bodies of those who died by exposure to the elements. When they were rescued in 1847, there were only 48 survivors left of the Donner Party.
Located within the historic town of Truckee in the Sierra Nevada, the park is a goldmine for not only history buffs, but also for those seeking to find exciting recreational activities. Whether you are visiting in the winter or the summer, Donner Memorial State Park will always have something to do, such as picnicking, camping, hiking, water sports and more. What’s so special about this park is how a tragic event in the past has created a space where people can now enjoy themselves, all while remembering and honoring their past.
Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center
Upon arrival at this beautiful park tucked away among pine and fir forests, heading over to the Donner Memorial State Park visitor center is a great start to your itinerary. Featuring a variety of different activities for visitors, it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the park’s atmosphere.
An Intriguing History Lesson
At the visitor center, you will be able to enter the Donner Memorial State Park museum, also known as the Donner Memorial State Park Emigrant Trail Museum, where you can get more information about Truckee’s interesting past.
There are six exhibits in total, each one delving into different topics and historical events; such as the Washoe Tribe, the Emigrant Trail, a detailed retelling of the Donner Party Journey, the Chinese railroad workers that changed the West, and so much more. The Multipurpose Theater is what enhances people’s experience of the museum; with state-of-the-art audiovisual systems dedicated to making presentations, you won’t be forgetting this history lesson quite so soon.