Historic Sites and Points of Interest in Nevada County

Donner Camp Interpretive Trail
A plaque was mounted on the boulder in 1960
Donner Camp Interpretive Trail 30 August 2014
(Click Photos to Zoom)
Donner Camp Interpretive Trail
State Route 89 North of Alder Creek Road
Donner Camp Historical Site

The Donner Camp Interpretive Trail is a flat, one-third mile loop with six signs containing excerpts from the letters and diaries of Donner Party members.

During the winter of 1846-47, snow trapped the George and Jacob Donner families here in Alder Creek Valley. Others were stranded six miles to the southwest at Donner Lake.

Nearly half of the Donner Party died in these mountains. The rest survived the ordeal with bitter memories of cold, hunger and death.

Source: Adapted from Tahoe National Forest website

The Fight to Stay Alive

By December 20th, the outlook was grim. Jacob Donner and three of the teamsters had died. The cold and the dampness were constant. As snow piled higher, dry fire wood was harder to find.

Tall tree stumps were once numerous throughout this area. They were cut by the Donner Party during their winter-long mission of gathering firewood. Stump heights, up to 12 feet, give an indication of the snow depth that winter.


Food was scarce. Hunting opportunities were rare. When the meat from the oxen and horses was gone, the starving emigrants resorted to boiling hides, eating the resultant gluey mass. Crushed bones were boiled into broth."

Did the poor starving emigrants eventually resort to cannibalism here at Alder Creek? Many say they did. Others disagree. What would you do if it was the only way to keep you or your loved ones alive?

"I don't know what I would have done sometimes without the comforting prayers of those two women..:" John Baptiste Trudeau

A statement made about Tamzene and Elizabeth Donner, made to Eliza Donner Houghton many years later.

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