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Truckee, California

Coordinates: 39°20′32″N 120°12′13″W / 39.34222°N 120.20361°W / 39.34222; -120.20361
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Truckee, California
Donner Pass Road
Donner Pass Road
Location in Nevada County in the state of California
Location in Nevada County in the state of California
Coordinates: 39°20′32″N 120°12′13″W / 39.34222°N 120.20361°W / 39.34222; -120.20361
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedMarch 23, 1993[1]
Named forTruckee
 • MayorCourtney Henderson[2]
 • Total33.66 sq mi (87.19 km2)
 • Land32.33 sq mi (83.74 km2)
 • Water1.33 sq mi (3.45 km2)  3.96%
Elevation5,817 ft (1,773 m)
 • Total16,180
 • Estimate 
 • Density517.60/sq mi (199.84/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Codes
Area code530
FIPS code06-80588
GNIS feature IDs1667886, 2413403

Truckee is an incorporated town in Nevada County, California, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 16,180, reflecting an increase of 2,316 from the 13,864 counted in the 2000 Census and having the 316th highest population in California and 2114th in the United States.


Truckee's existence began in 1863 as Gray's Station, named for Joseph Gray's Roadhouse on the trans-Sierra wagon road.[7] A blacksmith named Samuel S. Coburn was there almost from the beginning, and by 1866 the area was known as Coburn's Station.[7] The Central Pacific Railroad selected Truckee as the name of its railroad station by August 1867, even though the tracks would not reach the station until a year later in 1868.[8] It was renamed Truckee after a Paiute chief, whose assumed Paiute name was Tru-ki-zo. He was the father of Chief Winnemucca and grandfather of Sarah Winnemucca. The first Europeans who came to cross the Sierra Nevada encountered his tribe. The friendly chief rode toward them yelling, “Tro-kay!”, which is Paiute for 'Everything is all right'. The unaware travelers assumed he was yelling his name. Chief Truckee later served as a guide for John C. Frémont.[9]


Habitation by Native Americans[edit]

Petroglyphs at McGlashan Point
Washoe women making rabbit quilts out of rabbit pelts (c. 1935)

The Truckee River flows from Lake Tahoe for approximately 100 miles (160 km) northeast to the border of the arid Great Basin of Nevada and Utah and into Pyramid Lake. This water source formed a natural, seasonal route for Native Americans. Although no particular tribe is considered to have inhabited Truckee year-round, the Washoe people occupied a large territory roughly centered in the modern day Carson City area, but Shoshone and Paiute Tribes were also present (the Paiute Tribe Reservation now encompasses Pyramid Lake).

These peoples are considered to be the primary source of Native American travelers in the area. Hobart Mills, just north of Truckee on Highway 89, has a large, horizontal, circular petroglyph of the type common to travel routes in Nevada. The dates of that petroglyph, as well as several etched into granite slabs on the summit west of Truckee, are not agreed upon. But those artifacts, as well as the abundance of arrowheads throughout the Truckee region, attest to a minimum of hundreds of years of Native American presence.

Like most of the modern history of the West, as the European settlers' population increased, the Native American population decreased. The Gold Rush of 1849 caused a surge in fortune-seeking settlers (although Truckee itself wasn't settled until later).

It is not known exactly when the last indigenous Native Americans passed through Truckee, but there is Washoe people oral history of the Donner Party tragedy of the winter of 1846–47.[10]

Donner Party[edit]

Monument to the Donner Party in Donner Memorial State Park, Truckee

The Donner Party ordeal is arguably Truckee's most famous historical event. In 1846, a group of settlers from Illinois, originally known as the Donner-Reed Party but now usually referred to as the Donner Party, became snowbound in early fall as a result of several trail mishaps, poor decision-making, and an early onset of winter that year. Choosing multiple times to take shortcuts to save distance compared to the traditional Oregon Trail, coupled with infighting, a disastrous crossing of the Utah salt flats, and the attempt to use the pass near the Truckee River (now Donner Pass) all caused delays in their journey.

Map of Donner Party encampments on Donner Lake

Finally, a large, early blizzard brought the remaining settlers to a halt at the edge of what is now Donner Lake, about 1,200 feet (370 m) below the steep granite summit of the Sierra Nevada mountains and 90 miles (140 km) east of their final destination, Sutter's Fort (near Sacramento). Several attempts at carting their few remaining wagons, oxen, and supplies over the summit—sometimes by pulling them up by rope—proved impossible due to freezing conditions and a lack of any preexisting trail. The party returned, broken in spirit and short of supplies, to the edge of Donner Lake. A portion of the camp members also returned to the Alder Creek campsite a few miles to the east.

During the hard winter the travelers endured starvation and were later found to have practiced cannibalism. Fifteen members constructed makeshift snowshoes and set out for Sutter's Fort in the late fall but were thwarted by freezing weather and disorientation. Only seven survived: two were lost, and six died. Those who died were used as food by those who remained. The Truckee camp survivors were saved by a Reed Party member who had set out ahead after having been ejected from the party months earlier for killing another man in a violent argument. Seeing that the group never arrived at Sutter's Fort, he initiated several relief parties.

Of the original 87 settlers in the Donner-Reed party, 48 survived the ordeal. The Donner Memorial State Park is dedicated to the settlers and is located at the East End of Donner Lake.

Other historical events[edit]

Truckee grew as a railroad town originally named Coburn Station, starting with the Transcontinental Railroad. The railroad goes into downtown Truckee, and the Amtrak passenger lines still stop there on the trip from Chicago to San Francisco.[11]

Truckee's Sinophobic movement had begun during the Reconstruction Period, marked by the Trout Creek Outrage of 1876:

By 1876, some 300 of the town’s residents, from workers to its most prominent citizens, had formed a local chapter of the Order of the Caucasians, also known as the Caucasian League, to drive out the Chinese. Truckee gained statewide notoriety that summer when late one night seven of the group's members, clad in black, surrounded and set fire to two cabins full of Chinese woodcutters who had refused to leave the area. The vigilantes shot at the Chinese men as they ran out of the cabin, killing forty-five-year-old Ah Ling.[12]

Charles Fayette McGlashan, local lawyer and owner/publisher of the Truckee Republican, defended those accused in the Trout Creek Outrage and was a leader in the town's anti-Chinese movement. In 1886, the town's Chinese inhabitants, about 1,400 in number, were expelled from Truckee as part of a campaign that included a boycott of any business that did business with Chinese.[13]

In 1891, lawman Jacob Teeter was killed in a violent gunfight with fellow lawman, James Reed (no relation to James Frazier Reed of the Donner Party). Constable Reed was among those accused of participating in the Trout Creek Outrage fifteen years prior.[14]

Truckee reportedly had one of the nation's first mechanized ski lifts at the site of the Hilltop Lodge.[15] The historic Hilltop Lodge was converted to a restaurant in the 1940s by the Crandall Brothers, and eventually became Cottonwood Restaurant and Bar.[16] There were possibly two rope tows and a Poma lift, which was installed in 1954.[17] At the same location there was a ski jump constructed during the early 1900s that was designed by Lars Haugen, a seven-time Olympic ski jumping champion.[17]


In 1993, Truckee incorporated as a city.[18]

Geography and climate[edit]

The Truckee River, just east of Truckee
First snow of winter, Trout Creek, December 2007

Truckee is located along Interstate 80.[19]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 33.7 square miles (87 km2), of which 32.3 square miles (84 km2) is land and 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2) (3.96%) is water, mostly Donner Lake and the Truckee River.


Under the Köppen climate classification system, Truckee has a humid continental climate (Dsb) with Mediterranean like characteristics. Winters are chilly with regular snowfall, while summers are warm to hot and dry, with occasional periods of intense thunderstorms.[20] Its location near the Sierra Nevada crest at 1,798 metres (5,899 ft) provides conditions for winter storms to commonly deposit nearly a meter of snow in a 24-hour storm event and the occasional week-long storm event can deliver 2 to 3 metres (79 to 118 in) of snow. The National Weather Service reports that Truckee's warmest month is July with an average maximum temperature of 82.7 °F (28.2 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 42.4 °F (5.8 °C). January is the coldest month with an average maximum temperature of 40.9 °F (4.9 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 16.3 °F (−8.7 °C). The record maximum temperature of 104 °F (40 °C) was on July 6, 2007. The record minimum temperature of −28 °F (−33.3 °C) was on February 27, 1962. Annually, there are an average of 8.4 days with highs of 90 °F (32.2 °C) or higher and 239 with a high above 50 °F (10 °C). Freezing temperatures have been observed in every month of the year and there are an average of 228.4 nights with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower – seven more than Fairbanks and only eight fewer than Nome – but only 6.0 nights with lows of 0 °F (−17.8 °C) or lower and 15.6 days where the high does not top freezing.

Normal annual precipitation in Truckee is 30.85 inches (783.6 mm); measurable precipitation (0.01 inches (0.25 mm) or more) occurs on an average of 87.0 days annually. The most precipitation in one month was 23.65 inches (600.7 mm) in December 1955, and the most precipitation in 24 hours was 5.21 inches (132.3 mm) on February 1, 1963. The wettest calendar year has been 1997 with 54.62 inches (1,387.3 mm) and the driest 1976 with 16.04 inches (407 mm),[21] although the extremes by “rain year” are a maximum of 53.50 inches (1,358.9 mm) between July 1981 and June 1982 and a low of 15.91 inches (404.1 mm) between July 2000 and June 2001.

Truckee has an average of 206.6 inches (5.25 m) of snow annually, which makes it the fifth-snowiest city in the United States, while snow cover usually averages 28 inches (0.71 m) in February, but has exceeded 115 inches (2.92 m).[22] The most snow in one month was 196.0 inches (4.98 m) in February 1938, and the most in a season was 444.30 inches (11.29 m) between July 1951 and June 1952.[23] The maximum 24-hour snowfall was 34.0 inches (0.86 m) on February 17, 1990.

Climate data for Truckee, California (Truckee Ranger Station), 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1904–2009
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 64
Mean maximum °F (°C) 52.9
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 41.8
Daily mean °F (°C) 28.9
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 16.1
Mean minimum °F (°C) −4.1
Record low °F (°C) −28
Average precipitation inches (mm) 5.68
Average snowfall inches (cm) 43.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.9 11.0 10.0 9.4 7.3 3.2 1.9 2.0 2.8 4.9 7.7 11.6 83.7
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 8.7 8.1 6.8 5.4 1.6 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.2 3.7 7.8 43.8
Source 1: NOAA[24]
Source 2: WRCC (mean maxima and minima 1904–2009)[25]


Historical population
2021 (est.)17,168[6]2.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[26]
A house in Truckee


The 2020 US Census[27] reported that Truckee had a population of 16,729. According to the Census, the breakdown of the town's population by race and ethnicity in 2020 was: 12,946 (77.4%) White, 3,128 (18.7%) Hispanic or Latino, 31 (0.2%) African American, 92 (0.5%) Native American, 275 (1.6%) Asian, 9 (0.1%) Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 1,446 (8.8%) other races, and 1,930 (11.5%) from two or more races.[28]

Per the 2021 American Community Survey, 50.3% of residents were male and 49.7% were female. 22.2% of residents were under 18, 15.9% were 65 or older, and the median age was 41.9 years. 8.1% of the town's population were people with disabilities.[28]

There were 6,247 households, out of which 59.7% were married-couple family households, 18.8% had a male householder with no spouse present, and 12.5% had a female householder with no spouse present. The average family size was 3.07.[28]

There were 13,374 housing units, of which 49.4% were reported as vacant and 50.6% were reported as occupied.[28]

12.8% of Truckee residents had moved: 4.1% of Truckee residents had moved within the same county, 5.2% had moved from a different county within California, 1.1% had moved from a different state, and 2.4% had moved from abroad.[28]


The 2010 United States Census[29] reported that Truckee had a population of 16,180. The population density was 480.8 inhabitants per square mile (185.6/km2). The racial makeup of Truckee was 13,992 (86.5%) White, 3,016 (18.6%) Hispanic or Latino, 60 (0.4%) African American, 95 (0.6%) Native American, 241 (1.5%) Asian, 15 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 1,431 (8.8%) from other races, and 346 (2.1%) from two or more races.

The Census reported that 16,137 people (99.7% of the population) lived in households, 43 (0.3%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 6,343 households, out of which 2,135 (33.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 3,443 (54.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 411 (6.5%) had a female householder with no husband present, 314 (5.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 502 (7.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 43 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 1,382 households (21.8%) were made up of individuals, and 275 (4.3%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54. There were 4,168 families (65.7% of all households); the average family size was 2.98.

The population was spread out, with 3,769 people (23.3%) under the age of 18, 1,139 people (7.0%) aged 18 to 24, 5,030 people (31.1%) aged 25 to 44, 4,986 people (30.8%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,256 people (7.8%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 108.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 111.3 males.

There were 12,803 housing units at an average density of 380.4 per square mile (146.9/km2), of which 4,326 (68.2%) were owner-occupied, and 2,017 (31.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 7.8%. 10,783 people (66.6% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 5,354 people (33.1%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[30] of 2000, there were 13,864 people, 5,149 households, and 3,563 families residing in the town. The population density was 426.1 inhabitants per square mile (164.5/km2). There were 9,757 housing units at an average density of 299.8 per square mile (115.8/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 88.4% White, 0.3% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 7.6% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.8% of the population.

There were 5,149 households, out of which 37.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.2% were married couples living together, 6.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.8% were non-families. 18.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 3.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.09.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 26.7% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 36.8% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 5.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 112.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 112.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $58,848, and the median income for a family was $62,746. Males had a median income of $38,631 versus $29,536 for females. The per capita income for the town was $26,786. About 2.8% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.3% of those under age 18 and 2.0% of those age 65 or over. Recent land clearing outside town limits may affect the population.


The historic Truckee Hotel, April 2007

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Truckee. The town's passenger rail station is located[31] in the historic downtown. Amtrak Train 5, the westbound California Zephyr, departs Truckee daily with service to Colfax, Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, and Emeryville across the bay from San Francisco. Amtrak Train 6, the eastbound California Zephyr, departs Truckee daily with service to Reno, Sparks, Winnemucca, Elko, Salt Lake City, Provo, Helper, Green River, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Denver, Omaha, Galesburg, and Chicago. Capitol Corridor service from San Jose has been proposed, with the intention of going to Reno, Nevada. It is uncertain whether that extension may ever happen because there is only a single-track tunnel through the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains at Norden, California. Traffic is heavy, often with trains waiting on either side to cross through, and therefore the Union Pacific railroad has said in the past that it is unlikely that Amtrak passenger rail travel will increase in frequency unless a second tunnel is built.

Truckee Tahoe Airport, October 2018

There is a free public bus, operated by neighboring Placer County, California; this connects the Truckee train station to the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, and a second goes to Incline Village, Nevada. There are also winter ski buses between Reno Airport and the ski areas near Truckee. Greyhound operates from the Amtrak rail station, going west to Sacramento and San Francisco, and east to Reno, Salt Lake City, and Denver. There are also private bus companies from the San Francisco Bay Area which bring skiers up to Truckee for day trips.

Interstate 80 passes just to the north of central Truckee. Essentially, it follows the old emigrant wagon route. Reno is 31 miles (50 km) to the east on I-80. State Route 89, a north–south highway, connects Truckee to the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.

The Truckee-Tahoe Airport provides access to the North Lake Tahoe recreational area through general aviation services. The airfield boasts a 7000-foot main runway and a 4600-foot crosswind runway. The airport is not serviced by any commercial airline at the present time, although commercial flights are available from the nearby Reno-Tahoe International Airport. There are also glider tours operated from the airport.


The town is governed by a five-member Town Council, which elects one of its members as Mayor; the mayor presides over meetings and ceremonial events, but has no other special responsibilities.[32] The mayor as of December 2019 is David Polivy.[33] The first mayor of Truckee was Kathleen Eagan.[34]

State and federal representation[edit]

In the California State Legislature, Truckee is in the 1st Senate District, represented by Republican Brian Dahle,[35] and the 1st Assembly District, represented by Republican Megan Dahle.[36]

In the United States House of Representatives, Truckee is in California's 3rd congressional district, represented by Republican Kevin Kiley.[37]

According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, Truckee has 9,910 registered voters. Of those, 4,336 (43.8%) are registered Democrats, 1,901 (19.2%) are registered Republicans, and 1,398 (14.1%) have declined to state a political party.[38]


The closest large universities are in Reno, Nevada, and Sacramento, California. The two-year Sierra College, headquartered in Rocklin, has its Tahoe-Truckee campus in town. Students can complete all the requirements for a two-year Associate of Arts degree at this campus, as well as various certificates.

The Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District provides K-12 education to Truckee and the Lake Tahoe area with nine traditional schools, of which two elementary schools, a middle school, elementary school and Truckee High School are in the town itself. A newer middle school was recently built as well.

In interscholastic athletics, due to Truckee's isolation from the rest of California by the Sierra Nevada crest, Truckee High competes in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association along with four other similarly isolated California schools: North Tahoe High School, South Tahoe High School, Coleville High School, and Needles High School.

Notable people[edit]


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  3. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
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  7. ^ a b Union Pacific Railroad Historical Society Archives
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  15. ^ "State of California - The Resources Agency, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Primary Record" (Cottonwood Restaurant/Hilltop Lodge). November 11, 2003: THRI–210. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ "Surrounded by History". Cottonwood Restaurant. Archived from the original on October 25, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Truckee Historical Inventory
  18. ^ Moran, Margaret (June 7, 2013). "Looking back: Truckee's incorporation, 20 years later". Sierra Sun.
  19. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  20. ^ Greg de Nevers, Deborah Stanger Edelman, Adina M. Merenlender (2013). The California Naturalist Handbook. University of California Press. pp. 40–42. ISBN 978-0-520-27480-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  22. ^ "POR - Daily Snowdepth Average and Extreme". wrcc.dri.edu.
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  24. ^ "U.S. Climate Normals Quick Access". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
  25. ^ "Period of Record Monthly Climate Summary". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
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  31. ^ "Truckee, CA (TRU) | Amtrak".
  32. ^ Town of Truckee Municipal Codes/Charter, Title 1, Chapter 1.05 Archived October 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
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  34. ^ "History of Town Council Members". Town of Truckee. Town of Truckee. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  35. ^ "Senators". State of California. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  36. ^ "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  37. ^ "California's 3rd Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  38. ^ "CA Secretary of State – Report of Registration – February 10, 2019" (PDF). ca.gov. Retrieved March 12, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]