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Donner Lake is a freshwater lake in northeast California on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada and about 11 miles (18 km) northwest of the much larger Lake Tahoe. A moraine serves as a natural dam for the lake. The lake is located in the town of Truckee, sandwiched between Interstate 80 to the north and Schallenberger Ridge to the south. The tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad run along Schallenberger Ridge and closely follow the route of the original transcontinental railroad. The historic route of U.S. 40 follows the northern shoreline, then climbs to Donner Pass from where the entire lake may be viewed.
The lake's depth has been measured by the California State Lands Commission to be 328 feet (100 m) deep at its deepest point. High water level is 5,935.8 feet (1,809.2 m) above Mean Sea Level (since Lake Tahoe's high water line is 6228' MSL, that dispels the myth that somehow the two lakes are connected).
Donner Lake holds some of the biggest Lake Trout in the state. There is also a good population of Rainbow and Brown Trout as well as Kokanee Salmon. Fisherman use downriggers and troll with plugs for Kokanee Salmon and Rainbow Trout in order to catch the trophy sized Lake Trout. During the Spring and Fall season, Lake Trout come to the top to feed and this is the only time of year one has the chance to hook a Laker in shallow water.
A public boat ramp operated by the Truckee Donner Recreation & Parks District is available in the northwest corner of Donner Lake. There is a fee charged for boat launching. The lake is open to both power and sail boats.
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