fun to do kids truckee lake tahoe california   Travel for Kids
  | California | High Sierra | Lake Tahoe

Truckee and Donner Lake

donner lake
  On a summer day, Donner Lake is a great place for kids to swim and play in the water. But in the winter of 1846, a poorly equipped group of pioneers, trapped by heavy snows, made camp around the lake. Find out about the "Donner Dinner Party" at the Emigrant Trail Museum.
  Truckee – Downtown Truckee (Donner Pass Rd.) still has the feel of a frontier town. In the 19th century, Truckee was rip-roaring town, filled with miners and lumberjacks. Parts of the transcontinental railway were built out from Truckee, and there's still a train stop in town. Take the kids to Amtrak train station to watch the trains come in (check the schedule). At the corner of Spring and Jibboom St. check out the old jail, which was used continuously from 1875 to 1964.
    Truckee River Regional Park – Large playground for little kids, picnic tables and grass to run around, disc golf course. In winter, seasonal ice rink, skate rentals available.
    Truckee River Legacy Trail – Fabulous paved bike trail from downtown Truckee, along south side of the Truckee River. Pick up the trail at the Truckee River Regional Park. Bike rentals available at shop across from the park.
  Donner Lake – Donner Lake is perfect for a picnic, plenty of picnic tables and barbecues. Play on the sandy beaches or follow the path along the lake. There's a swimming beach at China Cove. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats for rent.
  Horseback riding – The wide open high country around Truckee is perfect for horseback riding. For littlest ones, there are pony rides (parents can lead the pony). Kids 7 and up will enjoy a guided trail ride.
Patty Reed's doll
  Donner Memorial State Park – This state park commemorates the ill-fated Donner Party. In 1846 two farmers, George and Jacob Donner brought their families west, along with a larger group. Delayed crossing the Sierra Nevada, they were snowed in near Donner Lake. The families built cabins, but food was scarce. During the winter, relief eventually came, but in order to survive, some of the Donner Party ate the bodies of people who died. One of the youngest members who hiked out over the high mountains was Patty Reed, an eight year old girl.
      Pioneer Monument – Check out this large bronze monument, dedicated in 1918 to all the people who made the difficult journey across the mountains to California in the 1840's.
Donner party
    Emigrant Trail Museum – This museum is dedicated to the history of this area, with displays of Washoe Indian baskets and arrowheads, dioramas of the Donner Party, plus Patty Reed's doll (replica), emigrant's trunks, rifles and other personal effects, a full-size covered wagon, exhibits of timber logging for the silver mines and tunneling through the Sierra for the train tracks. There's a 20 minute video of the Donner party expedition. At the entrance to the museum, don't miss the case filled with animals of the Sierra – salmon, trout, lynx, raccoon, beaver, flying squirrel, bobcat, stellar jay, ground squirrel.
      Nature trail – Behind the museum, take lovely walk along the creek, stopping to look at the Jeffrey and Lodgepole pine trees (these were used to build log cabins), trout or minnows in the stream, logs cut by beavers, and in spring, wildflowers in the meadow. For a longer walk, continue on the trail around the little lake.
kids books california

In 1846, a group of pioneer families, the Donner Party, headed to California. After taking a shortcut, they were trapped by winter snows at Truckee Lake (now Donner Lake), and some starved to death. Plus other stories about ill-fated pioneers. Gripping true adventures, good for older kids. (Graphic novel)


Patty Reed's Doll
Rachel K. Laurgaard

Travel with the Donner Party from Illinois to the high mountains of California, seen through the eyes of a little girl's wooden doll. Based on historical events, a heartwarming story of the pioneers' hope and determination. (Chapter book)


Patty Reed's Doll: The Story of the Donner Parrty
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