VIDEO: Sierra history comes to life at Donner Memorial State Park |

VIDEO: Sierra history comes to life at Donner Memorial State Park

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What: Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center

Where: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Sunday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

Phone: 530-582-7892


TRUCKEE, Calif. — Each month this summer, an average of 7,000 people migrate to the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center to learn about, among other things, the pioneer families that migrated to California in the 1840s.

First opened in June of 2015, the 9,400-square-foot visitor center east of Donner Lake brings the history of the Sierra Nevada to life through an array of artifacts and exhibits.

“A lot of people are really excited to see the expanded museum,” Nikki Combs, state park interpreter at Donner Memorial State Park, said this week.

The museum includes displays on the ill-fated Donner Party, the history of the Washoe natives, the Chinese workers who constructed the transcontinental railroad through the Sierra, the development of roadways over Donner Pass, and the launch of the area’s motel and lodging industry in the 1930s.

In addition, Combs said, “You’re going to see the emigrant story, including the story of the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party, which was the first group to bring wagons up and over the Sierra, opening up a new route into California.

“You’re going to find what families had to go through and what they had to bring to make the 2,000-mile journey to a new life and a new land.”

Helping bring that to life are interactive features, including kiosks, short films throughout the museum and the 26-minute movie “The Longest Winter: The Donner Party Story,” which is shown every hour in the center’s film room.

Combs said the visitor center does not have any new exhibits since it opened last summer, as the center was not designed to have rotating displays.

The Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center is expecting a “large influx” of visitors this Labor Day Weekend, Combs added.

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