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Contact Mark McLaughlin at 530-546-5612 to discuss your group's presentation needs and get ready for a thrilling journey into the past. These dynamic lectures can be custom tailored to suit your interests and budget.

Mark McLaughlin is available to travel to your own home town by prior arrangement. Field trips can be held throughout Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Western Nevada.

Selected Lecture Topics:

Reign of the Sierra Storm King

Residents and travelers in the Sierra Nevada Reign Storm King 2endure some of the most brutal winter storms in the world. Snowfall measured in feet, wind gusts in excess of 180 mph, destructive avalanches and wind chills far below zero conspire to wreak havoc on anyone caught unprepared. This presentation captures the compelling stories and dramatic images of railroad crews fighting mountain blizzards and deadly avalanches. During the ferocious winter of 1952, extreme weather shut down the railroad and highway system, while powerful snowstorms forced the evacuation of marines conducting winter survival training. Rampaging floods and bitter cold waves also play important roles in this zone of wild weather. How is climate change impacting this beautiful part of the world?

"Mark is a born teacher, excited about his subject, eager and able to generate similar excitement in his listeners."

History of Donner Pass

History Donner PassEven before the Donner Party tragedy of 1847, Donner Pass was the final and perhaps most challenging obstacle on the California Trail. The first pioneers over the Sierra, led by mountain man Elisha Stephens, had to take their wagons apart and haul them up in pieces to ascend the rugged pass. The wagons were followed by the first transcontinental railroad which used blasting powder, nitroglycerine, and the muscle of 10,000 Chinese laborers to tunnel their way through the granite cliffs. Today, a section of the original line has been temporarily abandoned and is easily accessed by hikers or mountain bikers who know the way there.



"He makes the weather understandable."

Longboards to Olympics: A Century of Tahoe Winter Sports

In 2010 Squaw Valley celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Winter Olympics that were held there. Few know that the Ski History PresentationTruckee-Lake Tahoe region is the birthplace of organized downhill skiing in America, and possibly the world. Starting in the late 1850s, miners in the Northern Sierra Nevada began ski racing for their mental and physical well-being. By 1870, North America's first ski racers were streaking down mountainsides at speeds approaching 100 mph. By the turn of the century, the town of Truckee had established an ice carnival to boost its lagging winter economy. From that point, winter sports grew in popularity and captured the imagination of California and the nation.


"Mark is enthusiastic, diverse and tells excellent stories."

The Donner Party: Weathering the Storm

The 1846 entrapment of the pioneer wagon train known as the Donner Party is one of the West's greatest tales. Mark's in-depth research reveals the personalities andDonner Party accomplishments of the early Argonauts. Gain insight into their pre-Gold Rush mentality and the concept of Manifest Destiny that drew them west. This presentation, based on Mark's award-winning book, also focuses on how extreme weather challenged the snowbound emigrants and their heroic rescuers. Cannibalism has historically been the focus for most writers regarding the Donner Party, but the story is best told from the viewpoint of their challenges and success at surviving their dire predicament . The Donner Party's desperate yet inspiring battle against the elements has become an educational primer about taking shortcuts and dawdling on the trail.

Click here to listen to Mark's 2007 Sierra College presentation: Weather & the Donner Party

"Excellent speaker, young, enthusiastic. Most enjoyable and informative."

The History of Lake Tahoe and the Comstock

The 1859 discovery of silver in western Nevada and the development of the Comstock Lode had disastrous consequences for the Tahoe basin and its environment. But one timber baron Tahoe Comstockwas a visionary who saw beyond the denuded lakeside slopes to dream of a paradise for tourists and nature lovers. Today Lake Tahoe still struggles with this destructive 19th century legacy, but environmental safeguards and better management practices have brought the region back from the brink of devastating exploitation. Modern visitors are stunned by a spectacular lake with world-renowned beauty and clarity. Learn how scientists are researching for solutions to modern environmental challenges at this unique alpine lake.

Taming the Wild Beast

Managing California's water supplies and anticipating spring runoff in the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe has always been a challenge. For more than a century, scientists have measured Tame the Beast 400the water content of the vital snowpack in order to predict floods and control river and stream flow when it melts. The science of snow surveying has come a long way from the early 1900s when Dr. James Church invented his simple snow sampler. Church's pioneering research led to the establishment of the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory near Donner Pass in 1944 by Dr. Robert Gerdel, an innovative engineer and physicist. The Snow Lab is still in operation and boasts the longest continuous weather record in the Sierra. This presentation follows the history of snow surveying, which first started in the Lake Tahoe Basin and is now practiced throughout the world.

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