Map of the Donner Party Route
1. Springfield, Illinois
April 16, 1846
The starting point for the Donner Party including the Reed family and the Donner family. The party was comprised of 32 members including the Reed's 2 servants and 7 teamsters who drove the wagons.
2. Independence, Missouri
May 10 - May 12, 1846
In May 1846, the nine covered wagons made the slow journey from Springfield, Illinois to Independence, Missouri. The Donner Party would purchase provisions here for their long, arduous journey to California.
3. Fort Laramie, Wyoming
July 3 - July 5, 1846
During a conversation at Fort Laramie with mountain man James Clyman, James Reed is urged "to go the old route." Reed disregards Clyman's advice and makes the fateful decision to take Hastings Cutoff.
4. Little Sandy River, Wyoming
July 18, 1846
The parting of ways. As the bulk of the Springfield, Illinois entourage turned right toward the familiar route, twenty wagons, including the ones belonging to the Donners and the Reeds, turned left toward Fort Bridger and the entrance to Hastings Cutoff.
5. Fort Bridger, Wyoming
July 24 - July 31, 1846
Expecting to be greeted by Lansford Hastings who would lead them through Hastings Cutoff, the Donner Party arrives at Fort Bridger only to find instructions left by Hastings who had left a week earlier with another team of emigrants heading for California.
6. Echo Canyon, Utah
August 4 - August 5, 1846
After a week of steady progress on the new trail outlined by Hastings, the Donner Party found a note at the bottom of Echo Canyon from Hastings. According to the note, the road up from the canyon was impassable and he advised them to wait until he could find a better route. When James Reed found Hastings, he refused to join the party and told Reed to lead the party through the canyon and up Big Mountain.
7. Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah
August 30 - September 3, 1846
The 87 members of the Donner party began their treacherous trek across the Great Salt Lake Desert. There they encountered conditions they'd never imagined: by day, searing heat that turned the sand into bubbling stew that swallowed their wagons, and at night, frigid winds that blew sand, suffocating their oxen. Five days and eighty miles later, they stumbled out of the Salt Desert filled with anguish and dismay.
8. Humboldt River, Nevada
October 2 - October 15, 1846
The murder of John Snyder, a driver for the Graves family, occurs at the hands of James Reed. While the majority of the party deems the murder punishable by hanging, Reed's wife, Margaret, begs for his life. Reed is instead banished from the party.
9. Sutter's Fort, California
By September, all of the emigrants of 1846 had safely arrived at Sutter's Fort in California. All except the Donner party, that is. In late October, the newly arrived emigrants were shocked to see James Reed emerge from the wilderness to tell the unfortunate tale of his fellow travelers. John Sutter gave Reed horses and supplies to bring back to his starving family and others. Relentlessly bad weather forced Reed to abandon his hopes of making a rescue for four long months.