Truckee California

Donner Party

The discovery of gold in California in the 1840s caused a massive influx of white settlers to the area, pioneers who set out west in search of fortune. One group of pioneers that came was known as the Donner Party, organized by brothers George and Jacob Donner. The group has also been called the Donner–Reed Party. They set off from Springfield, Illinois in 1846 and headed west. There trip to California, which was expected to take four to six months, did not go as planned.

Donner Pass area

The Donner Party decided to take their wagon train up the Truckee River, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains over what became known as Donner Pass. The group, which numbered nearly one hundred, arrived in the Truckee area in late October 1846 and headed west. Winter storms had already arrived to the area but despite the snow, the grouped pressed westward.

Due to the conditions, they could not scale the Sierras and had return to Donner Lake. Donner Lake lies in what is now the western side of Truckee. There they set up camp in a nasty storm.

A Tragic Situation

Donner Memorial State Park

At that time, there were no provisions that could be had in Truckee. Soon the party ran out of food and starvation set in. In December 1848, a group headed west to attempt passage over the mountains but many stayed, maintaining their camp at Donner Lake. Due to starvation, many in the party died, including children.

The Donner Party's situation became so bleak and desperate that the surviving members resorted to cannibalism. In total, more than forty people in the Party died, including numerous children. Forty–seven people survived in the Donner party making it to the valleys of California. Today, Donner Memorial Park along Donner Lake serves as a remembrance of the Donner Party. A 2009 movie called "The Donner Party" has been released on DVD.