About the Donner Party Diary

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Donner Party, I created a daily diary of the Donner Party's journey. Each day I posted entries from diaries, letters and other writings by the members of the Donner Party. I also included accounts from other original sources and from later histories. After the anniversary year ended, I kept the diary on the web for your research, education and enjoyment.

Like most people who grew up in California, I had heard of the Donner Party. In 1970 I learned to cross-country ski in the Donner Pass area. I wondered how the Donner Party crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains on foot in winter, a feat that would have been remarkable in 1970 let alone in 1846. Over the years I researched the history, beginning with George Stewart’s Ordeal by Hunger, and explored the remnants of the Emigrant Trail.

In 1996, the 150th anniversary of the Donner Party, I decided to organize my research and make it available for other people interested in the Donner Party. The World Wide Web seemed the perfect place to post my research. It was also convenient, as AOL offered its members home pages and a simple website creation tool (at first by CompuServe, later AOL Press).

The first version of the Donner Party Diary went live in July, 1996, with diary entries covering April through June, 1846. For the next nine months I updated the website daily to post the entries in real time. Those entries were primarily derived from a few books and my own exploration of Alder Creek, Donner Lake and Donner Pass.

Over the years, I deepened my research, expanded my explorations and updated the website. The bibliography lists the many sources I consulted. I have driven, hiked or skied most of the Donner Party’s route from Independence, Missouri to Sacramento, California. I skied Donner Lake and Donner Pass many times, and followed the Hastings Cutoff through the Utah and Nevada desert in a 4wd vehicle. Many of the photos on the website I took while standing where the Donner Party stood.

After 22 years, I redesigned this website to have a more contemporary look and function. I added navigation bars and made the pages mobile-friendly.

I am very much an amateur historian. You are welcome to assist in this effort. You can read information provided by other Donner Party buffs. If you have any corrections, information, pictures, maps or other Donner memorabilia to share, let me know.

Thank you for visiting the Donner Party Diary website


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If you want to send me a message about the Donner Party, or any other topic, e-mail me.