A Quick Summary of the Trip
The journey of the Donner party started in the spring of 1846 in Illinois. They picked up some more members in Missouri and started on their way out west. After facing the usual hardships of the trail, the Donner party decided to split off from the main wagon train and take a less-trodden path discovered by a man named Lansford Hastings. The group waited at Fort Bridger, but they eventually became tired of waiting and set out on the trail per the instructions left in letters by Hastings. On the new trail, the emigrants experienced even more hardships. The new trail was rocky and littered with debris that made it difficult for the wagons to drive upon them. Travel on the new trail took too long and once they got into the mountains, winter was immediately upon them. The Donner party became stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the the winter of 1846. It was a particularly harsh winter that year and as time wore on, food ran short. Travelers were dying from cold, starvation, illness, and various other causes. When they were eventually rescued in the spring of 1847, only 43 of the original 87 members were still alive.
Cannibalism seems to be the thing that people are most interested in about the Donner party. Thus, I have decided to link to another one of the pages on this site that one of my colleagues put together about cannibalism. By clicking the ling above in the title (Cannibalism?), you can go to to our page on cannibalism. Whether you are interested in the specific case of the Donner party or just cannibalism in general, it is sure to be very informative.