DONNER MEMORIAL STATE PARK
Located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada, Donner Memorial State Park offers the summer vacationer opportunities for camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, water-skiing, and hiking. In winter, visitors can cross-country ski and snowshoe on trails and enjoy the season's beauty. Visitors are welcome year-round at the Emigrant Trail Museum and at the Pioneer Monument, built to commemorate those who emigrated to California from the east in the mid-1800's. Included in the museum are displays and information about one of the earliest pioneer wagon trains, the Donner Party, forced by circumstances to camp at the east end of Donner Lake in the winter of 1846-47, resulting in human suffering and loss of life.
The park encompasses Scallenberger Ridge to the south of Donner Lake. In and around the park you can see some of the Sierra Nevada's geologic history:
The granite that rose within the crust of the earth in enormous bubbles, then cooled and hardened, to be exposed by erosion.The older sedimentary rocks, transformed by temperature and pressure.The Sierra's steep eastern face, created when gigantic upheavals tilted a section of the earth's crust.The glaciers that dominated the area a few thousand years ago have left huge boulders and debris that remained when the ice melted.
Seasons/Climate Recommended Clothing
Summer temperatures range from about 75 degrees during the day to the low 40s at night, and winter temperatures average from a high of 40 to a low of 20 degrees.
Food Storage Locker Information
Metal bear-resistant food lockers are provided in each campsite. All food, beverages, and toiletries are required by law to be stored in provided food lockers. The inside dimensions of the food lockers are 36" deep, 43" wide, and 28" high. Violators will be cited.
The park was established in 1928 to commemorate the ill-fated Donner Party of pioneers. The party became trapped by snow during their journey westward on Oregon Trail in winter 1846-47 leading to a tragic loss of life due to starvation and exposure.
The Emigrant Trail Museum opened within its boundaries in 1962, providing historical context about this event and other aspects of pioneer history. In addition, it also commemorates Native American heritage as well as Chinese immigrants who contributed significantly towards building railroads across Sierra Nevada Mountains.
In recent years efforts have been made for better preservation with an updated visitor center opening up at site's entrance back in June 2015.
Located at Donner Memorial State Park is a campground of 154 sites and a day-use area along the lake with picnic tables, restrooms, a beach, fishing, and a lakeside interpretive trail that has 18 panels which discuss the natural and cultural resources in the area.
Public Boat Ramp:
While the park has no boat launching ramp, a public ramp operated by the Truckee Donner Recreation & Parks District is available in the northwest corner of Donner Lake. There is a fee charged for boat launching. For information call (530) 582-7720. The lake is open to both power and sail boats.
The park has over three miles of frontage on Donner Lake and Donner Creek. Fishing is not usually spectacular, though there are trout and kokanee in the lake. The lake is planted with trout and a fishing license is required. Many fishermen prefer to use the park as a base to visit nearby lakes.