The Story

In the winter of 1849 a group of immigrants was lost, broken, and starving to death in an unknown American desert.

Zabriskie Point

Just two months earlier they had set out from Utah in a mighty wagon train – over one hundred strong – headed to the gold fields of California.

A risky shortcut lured a slice of those fortune seekers off the known trail and into a barren wasteland.  Vicious terrain, scant water, and meager forage – it seemed that every step they took dragged them deeper and deeper into trouble. Now they found themselves mired in an endless valley of salt, penned in by the steepest, most menacing mountains they had ever seen.

“… And as we looked, it seemed the most god-forsaken country in the world.  Desolation beyond conception.”

Trapped, they couldn’t go on.  In desperation they elected two men, William Manly and John Rogers, to find a way out, to get help and return before any hope for survival was lost.

The two men expected a ten-day trek.  It became a grueling march of nearly a month.  The terrible journey out - trudging day after day without water across some of the most punishing landscapes on Earth - nearly killed them.  And then, to save their friends, they went back - to do it all over again! Despite impossible odds, Manly, Rogers and eight others finally emerged, wraith thin and in tatters, into Southern California. After the purgatory they named “Death Valley” the lush meadows of the Santa Clara Valley seemed like paradise.

For years the survivors kept their journey a secret - too traumatized by the experience to talk of it. But late in life, William Lewis Manly, decided he ought to pen, “a plain, unvarnished, tale of truth.” Forty-five years after their exodus his story was published - a survivor’s true account of death, despair, and heroism in Death Valley in the heat of the California Gold Rush. Today Death Valley in ’49 is regarded as one of the most accurate, insightful and important chronicles of Western migration history ever written.

It is also something more.

“This is an American story; it’s an American fact. It is a piece of American history but it is also an American parable about commitments to each other, commitments across lines of gender, age and ethnicities toward a union of Americans that is more than just rhetoric – a heroic commitment to duty!”

Kevin Starr, Ph.D.  Author/Historian

Escape From Death Valley is one of the greatest stories of American heroism that has never been told – until now.

The Production

Breath-taking videography, exquisite time-lapse sequences, majestic aerial imagery, a custom music score, and a suite of impressionistic re-enactments will make Escape From Death Valley one of the most spellbinding historical documentary programs ever created.

More than $100,000.00 has been raised thus far.

Research, pre-production, the script, and more than fifty percent of field production - including all on-camera interviews - have already been accomplished!

The project now seeks completion funding to bring this extraordinary program to national audiences in the fall of 2023.

Join Us! Help bring this heroic story out of the desert; help Escape From Death Valley reach national audiences today!