Donner Party Monument - Cannibals!
The bronze figures of a pioneer family peering westward are scaled large, topping a tall stone pedestal in a pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Donner State Park. Today I-80 effortlessly gets you there, and on to the Pacific coast in a few hours. Back in 1846 it wasn't so easy, as the group of pioneers known as the Donner Party discovered.
They didn't plan well. The families, some 87 emigrants, embarked in their wagon train into the mountains too close to winter, and stalled out near Donner Lake, with snow 22-ft. deep in places. Only 48 ultimately were rescued the following Spring. Survivors provided accounts of starvation and of some of the group resorting to cannibalism.
The site became an unofficial tourist attraction within a few years (and during milder seasons); a state park was created in 1927, and the museum was called the Donner Party Museum. But times changed. California became less interested in embracing its cannibal past, preferring the more optimistic and inclusive "Emigrant Trail Museum."
The statue went up at the site of the Donner camp in 1918. The stone pedestal is 22-ft. tall, so that you can be awed by the depth of the snow. The plaque on the front of the statue, which used to mention the human dining horror, is now a vaguely worded bromide to the "pioneer spirit." Tourists ravenous for tales of cannibalism won't find it here, but they can walk a half-mile along the nature trail to a ten-foot-high rock, which has the names of the survivors on one side, the names of the (possible) human entrees on the other. It's the only surviving memorial to the Donner Party.