Photographer's Note

In October of 1849 a group of wagons arrived at Salt Lake City; much too late to try to cross the mountains safely. A couple of years before, the Donnor Party left late out of Salt Lake City, an event that became one of the greatest human disasters of that day and age. Eager to get to the California Gold fields and wishing to avoid the fate of the Donnor party, they struck out south for the Old Spanish trail.

Along the way, a young man rode into the camp with a map made by John Fremont which showed a shortcut across the desert to a place called Walkers Pass. The short cut would save 500 miles, so most of the wagons, their parties eager to reach their destination, left the trail and headed west. After a perilous journey, on Christmas Eve of 1849, the group arrived at Travertine Springs on the eastern edge of Death Valley. Along the way, the young man with the map became impatient and left in the dead of night; taking the map with him.

Determined to reach their destination, the party continued passing across the valley, following the path of what is today highway 190. After burning their wagons near the dunes, in a place now called "Burned Wagons Camp" they continued across the valley that later became named Death Valley. As they exited the valley, they passed through here, now named Immigrant Pass. The party after, 3 months of travel, eventually reached Rancho San Fernando, near present day Newhall, California.

Though myths abound, only 1 person lost their life on this journey. The weather was not hot at that time of year, and water, while scarce, was present; Travertine springs gushed 2,000 GPM. For a more expansive account see The Lost 49'ers

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Additional Photos by Ned Messerschmidt (nmess) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 558 W: 78 N: 414] (2301)
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