Donner Lake is 11 miles northwest of the well-known Lake Tahoe. It was named after the historical Donner Party that was trapped by Donner Lake during the severe winter of 1846. A number of creeks and streams flow into the lake, with outflow moving on to the Truckee River. The lake was created by glaciers with glacial debris forming a natural dam. The deepest point descends to 328 feet. Fishing is excellent with several types of trout and the Kokanee Salmon.
In the spring of 1846, 90 emigrants left Springfield, Illinois with the goal of getting to California. Led by brothers George and Jacon Donner, the group chose to take a northern path that was supposed a shorter route. The group arrived in the Sierra Nevada mountains on October 28 and became bogged down with heavy snows. Hardship and freezing temperatures led to only 45 members finishing their trip to California the following year. There are fascinating books written about “The Donner Party.”
The Donner Lake community has a nice mix of condominiums, mountain-style homes and exclusive lakefront properties. A short ten minute drive from downtown Truckee, property owners have access to a private Beach Club with a boat launch and several amenities. Family outdoor activities abound with magnificent lake and mountain views. Residents are a mix of primary and secondary homeowners. Resident children will ride the school bus and attend the public Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District.
The Donner State Park wraps around the eastern and southern parts of Donner Lake with numerous geological formations. The park has miles of hiking trails, camping sites, and also the Emigrant Trail Museum, educating visitors about the Donner party, earlier inhabitants, and the development of the American railroad system. For snowshoe enthusiasts, there is an established trail within the park.