Donner Memorial SP
Narrated by Russ Christoff
(Background sounds of water gurgling and splashing and birds singing)
Autumn was beginning when I headed up Highway 80 into the Sierra Nevada’s to explore the Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe areas.
I began my visit at Truckee and at Donner Memorial State Park.
Although named for the ill-fated group of pioneers that attempted to pass through here in the winter of 1846, the park serves as a memorial to all travelers who were part of the western migration to California.
The history of this period is interpreted at the Immigrant Trail Museum within the park, which is open to the public year round.
Inside, visitors will find artifacts and old photographs of some of the Donner Party, including a map used by the unfortunate group.
The museum also contains the history of primitive travel through the area and the modern expansion of the railroad through the treacherous mountain passes.
With cross country skiing in the winter, and a camper's paradise in the summer, Donner Memorial is fairly quiet in the fall months due to cool temperatures.
During my visit, most of the 150 campsites were vacant, with the exception of a few R.V.'s.
The camping season here runs between late spring and the first snowfall in autumn.
Summer camping is popular, so be sure and make reservations through the current state park's reservation system.
Within the park are hiking trails and the site where the Murphy Cabin once stood.
A five minute drive outside the park will take you to Alder Creek, where many of the Donner family lost their battle with the winter snows.
The park has over three miles of shoreline on Donner Lake and Donner Creek, with beachfront and picnicking facilities.
Fishing and boating are popular sports during good weather.
And, although the park has no boat launch, there is one nearby.
Nature hikes, campfire programs and other interpretative programs, are conducted by park staff members during the summer.