The Donner Party (1847) - The famous rescue of the Donner party happened in 1847 just north of what is now El Dorado County. Several dozen citizens raced to save the stranded pioneers who had been caught by an early winter near the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Snowshoe Thompson (1850s) - The rescue exploits of Snowshoe Thompson in El Dorado County have become national legend. Thompson, a mail carrier, was renowned for crossing the Sierras in winter on skis. Without radios, helicopters or any other modern equipment we use today, Thompson found and rescued numerous stranded people.
In the 150 years since the Donner incident, paid and volunteer rescuers have conducted untold thousands of rescue missions in the Sierras.
El Dorado SAR's History - In the 1970s, there wasn't a formal SAR team in El Dorado County. When a person was missing in the wilderness, the Sheriff called out the Mounted Posse, the Air Squadron, and some uniformed deputies. A search didn't begin until the subject was 24 hours overdue.
In 1984, as more people vacationed in the Sierras, the Sheriff's Office formed the County's first dedicated SAR team. It comprised a few dozen people, including an Explorer post, who trained and worked together under Sergeant Merlin "Scotty" Scott. The Lake Tahoe side of "the hill" grew it's own SAR team as well. For several years, until we got the hang of fundraising, SAR gear was built from ingenuity and cast-off Sheriff's equipment. We had one dedicated SAR vehicle, a 1977 Dodge van, and the County's mobile communications van (an ex-bookmobile).
In the 1990's, more people living in El Dorado County brought more and bigger missions. Both the West Slope and Tahoe teams expanded in size and capability. The biggest search in our historythe 11-day search for 12-year-old Kenny Miller happened in June 1992. Searches for Alzheimer's patients became common, since El Dorado County has one of the largest groups of Alzheimer's patients per capita in the state.
Today, EDSAR has about 120 civilian volunteers on the West Slope, and 30 more on the Tahoe team. Six SAR units comprise ten recognized SAR specialties. The El Dorado Search and Rescue Council (ESARC), a non-profit corporation, provides fundraising, training, equipment, facilities and other support.