The Donner Party followed the Truckee Route to the California Trail, a branch of the Emigrant Trail, to attempt a crossing of Donner Pass. Arriving in late October, heavy snows had already begun creating harsh conditions for their journey. The party was said to have resorted to cannibalism to survive the winter. 47 of the 87 men, women and children perished. More can be learned of their fascinating story at Donner Memorial State Park where you can visit the museum and Pioneer Monument.
During 1846-1848, thousands of emigrants passed westward through the Truckee Basin on the Truckee Route of the California Trail. It ran through Stampede and Prosser Valleys, past Truckee into the Coldstream Valley, and over the Sierra crest via Roller Pass, where wagons were hauled up the steep slope using chains. After 1849 Emigrants used other easier routes to travel into the gold country of California.
In 1866, Joseph Gray and George Schaffer built and operated the first lumber mill. Quickly, many other sawmills were built to supply the demand for wood products for the Central Pacific Railroad and Virginia City mines. Structural lumber, railroad ties, poles, fence posts, shingles, mine timbers, charcoal and firewood were cut from the extensive forest and shipped all over the West. The Lumber industry was Truckee's biggest business for decades.
April 28, 1868 As announced by the Nevada City Daily Transcript, 'The name ‘Coburn’s Station’ has been discarded by the people of that town and is now called 'Truckee' / June 18, 1868 The Virginia City Daily Trespass carried the announcement 'last evening we received a dispatch from Coburn's stating that the last connecting rail between California and Nevada, on the Central Pacific Railroad, had been laid. Tomorrow the cars will run from Reno to Sacramento.' / July 30, 1868 A fire broke out destroying all of Coburn's Station, except Gray's cabin and the lumber mills located south of the river. / 'Ice was first harvested in the Truckee Basin at Boca. By 1869, the Boca Mill and Ice Company had built an ice house with a capacity of 8,000 tons. Soon the area was crowded with other companies, all seeking a share of the profit. With the completion of the railroad, the ice could be used to refrigerate the fruits and vegetables produced in the great valleys of California for shipment across the country.
After Schaffer purchased Gray’s interest, he built a larger mill in Martis Valley, three miles south of Truckee. His mill supplied lumber to the mines of Virginia City and the growing cities of Sacramento and San Francisco. Three times in 1871 Truckee suffered major fires that burned most of the downtown district, each time the citizens quickly rebuilt.
Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Truckee is just 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, California; 100 miles east of Sacramento, California; 40 miles west of Reno, Nevada; and 12 miles north of Lake Tahoe, California.
Truckee has often been recognized as the coldest spot in the nation, but not during the winter ski season as one might expect. These nippy temperatures are noteworthy because they occur from June through early October. While it may be true, it really doesn't give a true picture of Truckee's pristine California weather pattern. Official temperatures are taken at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, located in Martis Valley. On clear nights, cool air from the high mountains sink downslope into the valley, a high-elevation basin. The dense air mass settles into the basin, creating a chilled microclimate contributing to the chilly readings. As the sun begins to rise, so does the temperature, creating enviable summer and fall temperatures.
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