Located on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, and just northeast of Lake Tahoe in California, you'll find Donner Lake and Donner Memorial State Park. This beautiful freshwater lake is surrounded by cabins, trails, and private docks, and is an especially popular spot for hiking, camping, and fishing in the summer months.
Donner Lake derives its name from the ill-fated Donner Party, a group of pioneers who became stranded near the lake in the winter of 1846. Trapped for five months in the Sierra Nevada, and after running out of supplies, many in the group infamously resorted to cannibalism. Of the 81 members of the Donner Party, only 45 survived the ordeal.
Visiting Donner Lake in January and surrounded by snowdrifts over 12 ft. high, it was easy to imagine the winter conditions that trapped the Donner Party. Symbolically, even the massive Pioneer Monument was buried in snow that was above my head. Even as a Canadian, seeing that much snow in an area where people actually lived was surreal.