Upon entering the Truckee Meadows along the Truckee River, thousands of California-bound emigrants turned their wagons southwest to avoid extensive marshes and uncrossable sloughs. Here at the base of Rattlesnake Mountain the emigrants established a campground, which extended nearly two miles to the east and west, one half mile north and south. Numerous local springs furnished quality water and the protected location of the camp provided an ideal locale for a rest stop after hundreds of grueling miles spent traversing the Humboldt River Valley. Once rested the emigrants turned west to face their last major obstacle, the Sierra Nevada.
In October of 1846, the ill-fated Donner Party spent five days in this area resting and grazing their weary animals. Plagued by a series of unfortunate incidents one member of the party, William Pike, was accidentally shot, died, and was buried in the vicinity.