The Truckee Route was opened in 1844 by the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party. They turned off the Oregon Trail at the Raft River and traveled into northeastern Nevada. Following the Mary’s River (Humboldt) west they crossed Nevada to the Humboldt Sink. After crossing the Forty-mile Desert they followed the Truckee River and with great difficulty proceeded up the canyon. Getting over the summit was an even greater ordeal.
In 1845, the trail was changed to avoid the difficult Truckee River Canyon above Truckee Meadows (Reno). Caleb Greenwood led the Thomas Knight party from present day Verdi, Nevada to Dog Valley. From there they went to the Stampede and Prosser reservoir area and on to Donner Lake.
In 1846, a new trail was opened from Donner Lake via Coldstream Canyon to avoid the climb over Donner Summit. The new pass was between Mount Judah and Mount Lincoln, south of the original pass. It became know as “Roller Pass”, named for the method used to pull wagons to the top.
In 1846, the Donner party traveled the Truckee Route far behind the other emigrants. They became snowbound in late October at the foot of the summit. Of the eighty-six snowbound emigrants only half came out of the mountains alive