The History of Euer ValleyAssociation News, Equestrian, Forestry, Trails
By Ali Dickson
The land we know as Euer Valley is celebrated for its unmatched outdoor recreational opportunities in the sun and the snow. This ground, though, is more than just a trail destination – the history of this valley is rich with culture, fortune and abundance dating back millions of years.
Fifty million years ago, the Sierra was a jungle in the tropics of Nevada. Donner Summit was underwater, and the ocean met land in eastern California. As tectonic plates moved, its force and motion created volcanoes. Many artifacts found around Euer Valley were created out of basalt rock, which forms from rapidly cooling lava, and granite rock, which forms when magma and metals oxidize under the ground.
As the tectonic plates around Euer Valley pushed volcanoes into mountains, the new geologic structures generated new, precipitous weather patterns. Rain that gathered soon became snow in high elevations, and that snow compressed into glaciers. As the glaciers grew, their weight caused them to break off the sheer mountain face, forming valleys such as this one.
As the glaciers moved, the mountainous granite was often forcibly chipped away, landing around the edges of glaciers. At the end of Euer Valley, you can find examples of these beautiful and erratic granite boulders, signifying the edge of what was once a powerful glacial formation.
As the glaciers retreated and the combination of rain and erosion created rivers, lakes and tributaries, lichen and moss slowly began breaking down the rocky landscape into soil. This created the basis for the Sierra we know and love with its towering pines, singing songbirds, fleeting deer and rich human culture – such as the Washoe people.
The WASHOE TRIBE and ITS PEOPLE
What we know today as Tahoe Donner is part of the ancestral territory of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. Washoe, or Washo, known as Wa She Shu and Wašiw, can be translated directly as “the people from here.” Their people spent summers in the Truckee-Tahoe basins and higher Sierra landscapes and winters in the Truckee Meadows area. The center of the Washoe world, both geographically and spiritually, is Da.aw, which we know as Lake Tahoe.
The Washoe spent their time in this valley hunting large game, trapping animals and fishing in waters such as what we know as Donner Lake, Prosser Creek and Truckee River. Plants were gathered to be used for food, medicine and utilitarian purposes. Pine nuts were gathered from pinion pines, and acorns were gathered from oak trees. With these resources, they fed and healed their people throughout the seasons.
With a deep connection to their family and land, they traveled together in the summers to Lake Tahoe and all parts of their territory. In the winters, they remained in the lowland valleys, where the colder weather was the least harsh. As the snow melted, their cycle of life began again.
The Washoe territory was occupied by four different bands that made up the whole of the tribe. This means, while the Washoe people are known as one band, each group had their own area, culture and language qualities.
The 1848 California Gold Rush and subsequent silver rush brought miners and immigrants in a flood, disrupting the balance the Washoe people cultivated for generations. The logging industry thrashed forests, and the destruction of the pines that supplied pine nuts as a critical local food source is just one example of how deforestation hurt more than just the trees. White settlers throughout the 1850s forcibly moved the Washoe people from their lands to small government settlements, such as the arid landscape surrounding Pyramid Lake, Nevada.
Though fewer than 10 people fluently speak the native language of the Washoe people today, they are working diligently to reclaim their language, culture and home once again. Work has been done to re-establish a presence within the Tahoe Sierra, including the harvest and care of traditional plant resources and the protection of traditional properties within this beautiful and cultural landscape.
To learn more about the Washoe people, visit washoetribe.us.
Following the gold rush and Comstock Lode silver rush of 1859, the area’s metallic treasures were quickly depleted. In 1867, the Central Pacific Railroad, the first transcontinental railroad, was set to head over Donner Summit, and a new “gold” was found in Truckee’s forests. Logging became a trade in Euer Valley, and miners soon became loggers. Truckee’s forests were heavily logged for the railroad to provide fuel, lumber and ties for the roadbed.
Once the railroad was completed, the sawmill industry grew exponentially around Truckee, now known as a major lumber center. The Trout Creek Mill cut 40,000 feet of board daily. To move all this lumber, railroads were created through Carpenter Valley and the North Fork of Prosser Creek. A narrow-gauge railroad was created to accommodate loggers on the southside of Euer Valley and mills such as the Euer Sawmill.
It is believed that the Euer family leased their land for logging as well as owned a sawmill as late as 1908. However, they were also known to be a ranch-dairying family, and as timber harvesting fell out of popular practice due to deforestation, more and more loggers turned to using the land instead as a tool for raising dairy cows.
Shifting away from logging beginning in the 1860s through the 1930s, dairy farming became a lucrative dynamic in the Truckee area. The Euer family was heavily involved with this practice, starting with Sophary Euer, an immigrant from Switzerland. In 1868, he and his wife, Clara Marie Antonet Lamblet of Wisconsin, began acquiring property in what we see today as Euer Valley.
Their generational farm was a B-grade dairy farm that made butters and cheeses. Known as “pan dairies,” the cows’ milk went into circular pans that sat out overnight before being skimmed the next day. These butters were not only created to eat but also to grease the skids of flumes to slide logs into mills when logging was so widespread. At first, the butters and cheeses were made by hand, but the turn of the century brought more modern equipment that lessened the need for constant manual labor. These technological advances also allowed for land like Euer Valley to once again be viewed in a new scope, such as the lucrative venture of cattle ranching.
CATTLE and HORSE CAMPS
As time passed, many second-generation farmers turned to ranching. Their use of the land was for beef cattle grazing. Because of the harsh winters, ranching was and tends to be today a seasonal operation. However, moving animals higher in elevation in warmer months and lower in colder months allowed for a more prosperous business.
One major example of this is the Euer family driving cattle over Donner Summit and into Euer Valley. To accommodate these unnatural grazers in alpine environments, sidehill springs were developed and pipelines were installed across the meadow area to provide water both for the grazers and the ranchers as they camped.
The Euer Brothers operation soon established recreational horse camps and cabin rentals as part of their business. An advertisement from the 1930s proclaimed, “No poison oak, no rattle snakes and rates of $3 per day for Board and Room.” An extra $3 earned you a trip on horseback through the beautiful, rugged and remote sites of all the valley has to offer.
John and Robert Euer, continuing as Euer Brothers, inherited the valley property from their father in 1973 and continued ranching until the early 2000s.
TAHOE DONNER OPEN SPACE, PRESERVATION and RECREATION
In 2003, a net sale of 200 acres of land was finalized between the Euer family and Tahoe Donner. In 2011, Tahoe Donner acquired an additional 482 acres of land owned by the Euer family, though John and Robert Euer continue to own 40 acres that include family residences and cabins.
What was first a wilderness area, then a source of life for the Washoe people, then a logging site, then dairy farmland and then a cattle landscape now resides as a recreation opportunity for members and guests alike at Tahoe Donner.
In order to address environmental degradations caused by compounded land uses, Tahoe Donner has partnered with the Truckee River Watershed Council to create the Euer Valley Restoration Project. Known to many as Coyote Crossing, the Euer Valley Restoration Project aims to protect sensitive wetland areas, repair Prosser Creek’s streambank erosion and provide sustainable passage for both summer and winter trail users.
As you hike, bike, ski, snowshoe or simply sit among the whispering pines in Euer Valley, you are among more than just nature – you are enveloped in thousands of years of motion, culture, perseverance, medicine, resource and intrinsic beauty that captured the hearts of countless generations.
Take a deep breath and feel the ancient wisdom Euer Valley holds. Let us work together to ensure this land is used, enjoyed and protected for generations to come.
We would like to thank the Truckee-Donner Historical Society for their help in creating this story. To learn more about the history of the Truckee area or volunteer with the society to protect, preserve and share Truckee’s rich history, visit truckeehistory.org.