Donner Memorial State Park
This California State Park is located by Donner Lake and centered around the Pioneer Monument. This bronze memorial depicts three settlers looking West, and stands atop a 22 foot stone pedestal erected on the on the site of one of the cabins used by the infamous Donner Party during the winter of 1846. The park has recreational activities and a visitor's center with a museum chronically the history of the area from the time of the Native Americans to the modern day.
The Donner Party were a group of pioneers bound for California during the first wave of Westward expansion but prior to the Gold Rush. The Donner Party deviated from the establish Oregon Trail, opting for a more southernly route that took them through the Sierra Nevada. They became trapped in the mountains beside what is now called Donner Lake during one of the worst winter's in the history of the region. Trapped for months with little food and no chance of rescue, members of the party eventually resorted to cannibalism to survive. Rescue eventually arrived in early spring, and the surviving members of the party settled across the state. Although the rescue parties had burned what remained after the winter, the story spread, and eventually a memorial was erected on the site of one of the cabins.
Upon entering the part, there is a large parking lot, campsites, and a large visitor center with a museum. The monument itself stands beyond the visitor's center. The entrance to the monument site is a paved walkway that leads to a low wall. While nearing the entrance, the visitor passes a plaque
At the entrance, a stone is engraved: "'No one knows the strength of kindred love until it is tried.' - Elizabeth Keegan, 12 years old, 1865."
The monument is 22 feet high and built from local granite, with a solid base and bricked body. Atop this tower sits a bronze statue of a man, woman, and child - all dressed in pioneer attire, the man's arm raised to shied his eyes from the sun - facing West towards Donner Pass. Two bronze plaques are set into the base of the monument.
The front plaque reads: "VIRILE TO RISK AND FIND; KINDLY WITHAL AND A READY HELP. FACING THE BRUNT OF FATE; INDOMITABLE,—UNAFRAID."
The back plaque reads: "NEAR THIS SPOT STOOD THE BREEN CABIN OF THE PARTY OF EMIGRANTS WHO STARTED FOR CALIFORNIA FROM SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, IN APRIL 1846, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF CAPTAIN GEORGE DONNER. DELAYS OCCURRED AND WHEN THE PARTY REACHED THIS LOCALITY, ON OCTOBER 29, THE TRUCKEE PASS EMIGRANT ROAD WAS CONCEALED BY SNOW. THE HEIGHT OF THE SHAFT OF THE MONUMENT INDICATES THE DEPTH OF THE SNOW, WHICH WAS TWENTY-TWO FEET. AFTER FUTILE EFFORTS TO CROSS THE SUMMIT THE PARTY WAS COMPELLED TO ENCAMP FOR THE WINTER. THE GRAVES CABIN WAS SITUATED ABOUT THREE-QUARTERS OF A MILE TO THE EASTWARD, THE MURPHY CABIN ABOUT TWO HUNDRED YARDS SOUTHWEST OF THE MONUMENT, AND THE DONNER TENTS WERE AT THE HEAD OF ALDER CREEK. NINETY PEOPLE WERE IN THE PARTY AND FORTY-TWO PERISHED, MOST OF THEM FROM STARVATION AND EXPOSURE. IN COMMEMORATION OF THE PIONEERS WHO CROSSED THE PLAINS TO SETTLE IN CALIFORNIA. MONUMENT ERECTED UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE NATIVE SONS AND THE NATIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE GOLDEN WEST. MONUMENT DEDICATED JUNE 6, 1918."