Description - 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; and of course the Sierra's steep eastern face, the barrier that faced the Donner Party and other California emigrants, created when gigantic upheavals tilted a section of the earth's crust as if it were a door with its hinge on the western edge. The glaciers that dominated the area a few thousand years ago have left their traces too, the huge boulders and other debris that remained when the ice melted, scattered as if by a giant hand.
Copyright: - California State Parks
- 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 Creek. Fishing is not usually spectacular, though there are trout and kokanee in the lake. The lake is planted with catchable trout and a fishing license is required. Many fishermen prefer to use the park as a base to visit nearby lakes. For suggestions ask a ranger.
The park has about 2.5 miles (4 km.) of hiking trails, and more enthusiastic hikers can also explore the neighboring Tahoe National Forest. Maps are for sale at the museum. Also, located at Donner Memorial State Park is a campground of 150 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 nature and cultural diversity of the area.
Recreation - Located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada, Donner Memorial State Park offers the summer vacationer opportunities for camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, waterskiing, and hiking. The park is forested primarily with lodgepole and Jeffrey pine and white fir; because of its elevation, nearly six thousand feet, there is no poison oak. It is home to deer, squirrels, chipmunks, porcupines, raccoons, beaver, and a wide variety of birds.
The park's campground, usually open from Memorial Day thru mid-September, has 150 sites with tables and parking spaces. Restrooms with hot pay showers are nearby. Sites will accommodate trailers or motor homes up to 28 feet long, and there are no hookups. Two vehicles, including trailers, is the maximum number allowed per campsite. Eight people are allowed to occupy one site. Check-out time is 12 p.m. Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. There is a 15-day limit on summer stays.
Emigrant Trail Museum
The Emigrant Trail Museum, located at Donner Memorial State Park, takes about 1 hour to visit and depicts the history of the area and the people who came into this part of the Sierra. Post cards, posters, maps, and books about the human and natural history of the area are for sale at the museum.
Near the museum is the Pioneer Monument and the Murphy family cabin site. Also starting from the side of the museum is a self-guiding nature trail which is a one half mile loop. Nature trail guides are available at the museum and campground entrance station. Guided hikes, ranging from 1 - 2 hours, start at the museum at varying times. The hikes, special feature shows, and campfires start in late June. For specific information on these activities, please call the park.
Climate - The High Sierra generally experiences warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters. Weather can change rapidly during all seasons of the year. Elevation plays a major role in temperature and precipitation. This precipitation falls mainly from October through April. At higher elevations, it comes mostly in the form of snow. A snowpack from 5-10 feet or more is usually present from December to May at elevations above 6,500 feet. Winter temperatures below zero and summer temperatures around 80 degrees indicate the normal seasonal spread. Clouds can build up during the summer to produce spectacular thunderstorm activity. It is wise to pack for any season with clothing that can be "layered", ready to peel off or add on as the thermometer dictates. Always include some kind of rain gear.
This park is located in the Sierra Nevada, west of the town of Truckee, off I-80.