Who are we?
The Death Valley ’49ers is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that seeks to expand public awareness of Death Valley. We have no headquarters office, equipment, vehicles, paid staff or employees, and we receive no government or other funding.
Death Valley is a highly valued national resource and recreational area that is protected and preserved by the National Park Service and others for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.The aim of the Death Valley ’49ers is to foster appreciation of Death Valley as a rare desert environment having unique natural and cultural histories, which played an important role in the settlement of the west and the addition of California to the Union.
Special recognition is given to the California bound pioneer wagon parties of 1849-50. Their indomitable will to survive and persevere through the ordeal of that winter serves as an enduring example of the hardy spirit of all Americans who traveled far searching for new and better lives.
The Death Valley ’49ers sponsor the Annual Encampment each November to celebrate this pioneer spirit and this special place called Death Valley. Our organization is primarily supported by membership dues.
What we do
The Death Valley ’49ers Organization has been instrumental in preserving the history and natural beauty of one of nature’s most awe-inspiring wild places for more than 74 years. When you join the Death Valley ’49ers you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to expand public awareness of Death Valley, protecting and preserving it for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Your membership also helps to award college scholarships to local graduating seniors and fund educational programs presented by the National Park Service and the Death Valley Natural History Association.
Directors and Members plan the Encampment and other projects and programs at six meetings held during the year.
- Produce the Annual Death Valley Encampment.
- Sponsor the Invitational Art Show.
- Sponsor Musical Events.
- Publish the Encampment Program, annual Keepsake booklet, semi-annual Death valley Newsletter, and several Books about Death Valley.
- Manage the Death Valley ’49ers Scholarship Program for Death Valley area high school students.
- Contribute funding for Death Valley Educational Programs.
- Maintain contact with the Timbisha-Shoshone Tribe on matters of mutual interest.
- Assist in renovation projects.
- Assist in the creation and maintenance of Monuments and state landmarks related to Death Valley history.
Monuments commemorating historically significant people and events have been placed throughout the Death Valley region with the help of the Death Valley ’49ers. Take a look at our Monuments page to learn more about each one.
Death Valley ’49er Meetings
Death Valley ’49er meetings are held in January – March – May – July – September – and during ENCAMPMENT in November. Please visit our Meetings page for more information.
The Death Valley ’49ers organization operates solely by our member volunteers who have a great interest in the desert and the history of Death Valley. We are in need of volunteers to serve on committees, be involved in the preparation of the annual encampment and participate in organizing and running the many events that we host. Without volunteers, events may have to be canceled. If you have a favorite activity, contest or event that you would like to have continue as part of the encampment, offer to help make it happen!
We are currently in need of a Membership Chairperson along with other committees that need member support. Finance, Insurance and Contracts; Audit; Membership Sales; Membership Administration; Public Relations, Sponsors & Publicity; Archives, Library & History;
We will start a committee to plan the 75th Anniversary Celebration for 2024. We hope to make this an outstanding event to commemorate the original pageant and celebration that took place in December, 1949. If you are available to help, please send us a message using our Contact Us form.
Past and Present Presidents/Chairperson of the Board
The Death Valley ’49ers started as a non-profit organization in 1949 with members from Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. They worked in connection with California’s State Centennial Celebration to produce an authentic, historical pageant in Death Valley glorifying the spirit of the California pioneers. Learn more about our Presidents by visiting our Death Valley ’49ers Presidents page.
1949 Centennial Pageant
The Death Valley ’49ers started as a non-profit organization in 1949 with members from Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. They worked in connection with California’s State Centennial Celebration to produce an authentic, historical pageant in Death Valley glorifying the spirit of the California pioneers.