Boca means “mouth” in Spanish, and in English, the word can refer to a river mouth. Here, it refers to the confluence of the Little Truckee River with the main Truckee. Boca lies about 15 miles east of Donner Summit and got its start as a source of timber for the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s. Logs were floated down the Little Truckee to a sawmill at the confluence with the Truckee.
Boca’s big claim to fame, however, was in a forgotten 19th-century industry: ice harvesting. A millpond originally built for timber operations would freeze over in winter, and the ice would be sawed into blocks and shipped out.
Even the rudimentary insulation of the day could preserve much of the ice over the summer. But by the 1920s, the timber was exhausted and natural ice harvesting became uncompetitive with artificial refrigeration. The town was finally dismantled in 1927.
Know Before You Go
Take exit 194 on Interstate 80 (signed for "Hirschdale Road") and proceed north. The parking lot for the Boca townsite is on the right, about 0.4 mile after the highway crosses the Truckee River. A short interpretive path through the townsite starts at the parking lot.