After a short, five-month long, grassroots fundraising campaign in 2012, and exacting negotiations, the Land Trust acquired 3,000 acres on Donner Summit known as Royal Gorge, and 351-acres in Johnson Canyon (Negro Canyon) above Donner Lake. With the help of over 1,000 donors, and numerous public and private agencies, the Land Trust and its partners were able to raise the $11.25 million dollars needed to meet the Dec 20, 2012 deadline to secure the foreclosed property. Thanks especially to our partners at The Trust for Public Land the Northern Sierra Partnership.
This might be one of the most important conservation victories for the Sierra in a generation. Now, all of Royal Gorge's remarkable meadows, peaks, natural resources and the Nordic ski area have been protected forever and will be open to the public for world-class recreation.
Billy Mack Canyon
Between 2005-2010, the four acquisitions in Billy Mack Canyon comprise over 400 acres of contiguous open space along one of the main tributaries to Donner Lake. They are rich in habitat for both resident and migrating wildlife. Billy Mack Flat is home to beavers which have dammed the creek in numerous places. Other mammals include fox, pine marten, and black bear. Recreation opportunities include backcountry skiing, rock climbing, and bouldering, and in the future, an new trail accessing the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Land Trust protected 280 acres in Johnson Canyon (near Donner Summit) that had once been designated as a residential development. This prompted us to contact the owners, who recognized the land's value as a gateway to the Castle Peak Wilderness Area and as a migratory corridor for the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd. Because of its easy access from Interstate 80 and the Tahoe Donner subdivision, and the stunning views of Donner Lake, Castle Peak and Mount Rose, the Canyon is a popular recreational site for hikers, bikers and equestrians who use the Donner Lake Rim Trail that traverses the Canyon. The area is rich in wildlife, including black bears, coyotes, mule deer, bobcats, and porcupines. Gregory Creek also runs through this High-Sierra chaparral canyon. The Canyon is also home to at least four species of birds listed as protected by state or federal programs.
Johnson Caynon aka Negro Canyon has historical significance to the Truckee community. Local historians believe the name may be related to an African American and resident of Donner Lake around 1878 named Albert Johnson. Johnson was well known and respected, was a cook at the Truckee Hotel and later worked as a cook on a Lake Tahoe steamer. In newspaper articles, he is referred to as a “colored veteran,“ probably of the Civil War. Eventually, he began renting cabins at Donner Lake near the output of Gregory Creek, which flows from Johnson Canyon. Unfortunately, his name does not appear on land or property records, making it difficult to establish if he has any official connection to the Negro Canyon name.
The Land Trust and the Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy organization, acquired this significant climbing area on Donner Summit in late 2015. The 11.9-acre property features some of the most dramatic terrain in the Truckee-Tahoe region, with stunning vistas and world-class climbing on finely textured granite. The acquisition protects the popular and historic Black Wall, Peanut Gallery, and Road Cut climbing areas, as well as the access trail to the popular Space Wall, Shark Wall, and Grouse Slabs, all easily accessible from Old Highway 40
The climbing routes were established more than 50 years ago and range from deep chimneys and low-angle slabs for beginners, to overhanging test pieces for experts, and splitter cracks and sport routes for all skill levels. Next to Yosemite, Donner Summit was home to many of the best rock climbers of the 70s and 80s. Many national and world-class climbers still use Donner Summit as a training ground.
With support from the Access Fund and local climbers, the Land Trust will steward and provide public access to the property, minimize environmental and visual impacts from climbers, build new trails and trailheads, provide informative signage, and protect nesting peregrine falcons in the area. The Land Trust and the Access Fund will work with the local climbing community to create a volunteer climber coalition that will help implement a recreation and stewardship management plan for the greater Donner Summit area to ensure best practices.