117. A-23 Donner Hill – Information

Historic photo of Donner Hill before a condominium was built

Donner Hill hammered yet another nail into the Donner-Reed Party coffin. For 12 days the emigrants had gnawed a track through the rugged Wasatch wilderness, and now, at the very edge of the Salt Lake Valley, limestone outcrops and dense willows blocked their exit from the mouth of Emigration Canyon.

The discouraged travelers pulled to the left out of the creek bottom and up the 200-foot-high ridge that thereafter would bear their name. The effort nearly used up the strength of their oxen. The next year Brigham Young’s vanguard pioneer party, having more men for the labor, opened a road through the blockage, avoiding the hill climb, in just 4 hours’ time.

The evening of their arrival on July 22, 1846, the Donner-Reed Party encamped a short distance beyond the hilltop, with the broad Salt Lake Valley stretched at their feet. A grassy park along the ridge to the south above Emigration Canyon Road is named Donner Trail Park in commemoration of that campsite.

The next day, the emigrants descended the ridge and traveled across the valley to the Jordan River. From there, the Donner-Reed Party continued along the south shore of the Great Salt Lake.