|Pioneer Monument at Donner Memorial State Park|
We arrived at our cabin at Donner Lake in the late afternoon of June 9, 2017. We also stayed here before going to San Francisco.
The Tragedy by which Truckee Lake became Donner Lake
|Bronze of Donner survivors Spotting Relief Party |
at entrance to Museum
The Donner ordeal began in October 1846, it didn't finally end until April 1847. The winter was long and the successive snows were persistent. One can imagine that the trash of the camp was simply thrown outside of the cabins only to be buried by the next snowfall. More trash was added and buried by successive snowfalls. When the snow finally melted in the late spring of 1847 all of the accumulated garbage and the horrors of the winter were on gruesome display.
In June, 1847 Gen. Kearny, on his way from California to Fort Leavenworth Kansas, directed his troops to clean up the Mess. The troops gathered together the garbage, animal remains and human remains and buried them in one of the cabins. The cabin was then set alight. Despite their efforts, emigrants in the succeeding few years still reported finding remains of the horrific winter. As word of the gruesome scene spread, emigrant traffic over Donner Pass fell. It was only in 1849, with the beginning of the gold rush that emigrant traffic over Donner Pass once again begin to increase.
California State Park Interpreter Nikki Combs addressing
Truckee Rotary Lunch, June 1, 2017
|Lincoln Highway Display in Museum at Donner Memorial State Park|
Sixty or seventy years after the tragedy people began to see Donner Lake as a camping and recreation destination.
|Early stereoscope card of boaters at west end of Donner Lake|
Early stereoscope pictures show tourists and visitors in rowboats on the west end beach. Later pictures even show steam launches operating on the lake. Still other photos show the beginning of Donner Lake Camp at the northwest corner of the lake. There were hotels and tourist facilities at both the East and West ends of the lake.
|Donner Lake Camp at northwest shore of Donner Lake|
Many of these tourist structures from the early days survived into the 1950s, the 1960s and a few into the 70s. To them were added other structures. The Donner Lake Lodge sat on the North Shore of Donner Lake. Across Donner Pass Road from the Lodge was the Donner Lake Trading Post. Just west of the trading Post was Richard's garage. Of course there were utilitarian structures too. Among these were chain sheds where motorist preparing to climb Donner Summit could have chains put on their car.
|Richard's Garage Chain Shed|
|Old Chain Shed, Donner Lake|
|Chain Shed Re-Purposed into Real Estate Office|
Ghost Sign advertisement on Donner Pass Road, across the
Highway from Donner Lake
|Donner Lake Lodge circa 1960|
The Best of all possible Worlds
These early structures had a certain charm to them which the newer condominiums lack. Between the West End public beach and the Lodge were small cabins which were rented to tourists by the week. I remember walking by those cabins and it seemed that some of the same families would rent the same cabin during the same week each summer. While I never learned any names, I would exchange greetings on my way to go fishing.
|Donner Lake Lodge and Wilshire Dock|
Norm Saylor was an expert water skier. Many years ago I purchased a Donner Lake postcard showing two skiers being pulled up from the West End beach. Later I showed the card to Norm and he indicated that he was one of the skiers.
Norm Saylor (r) water skiing while his wife and daughter watch
Cabins to right could be rented by the week. (note Ski Jump in
Distance) Norm was both an expert snow and water skier.
|Donner Lake Trading Post|
Children were given a degree of freedom at the lake that would be unheard of today. They were allowed to swim, hike and explore with little adult interference. I had many great adventures at Donner. To me, it was the best of all possible worlds. The freedom I enjoyed and the adventures I hatched were good for me, and an essential part of who I am.
|West End Beach before it was taken over by the Recreation District|