The Jayhawkers are famous for their harrowing journey through the unexplored lands of Death Valley in 1849 on their way to reach the fabled gold fields of California’s Mother Lode. They made it, but only after burning their wagons and ditching some of their possessions. They are likely the first white people to set foot in the vast alkali valley and are credited for giving Death Valley its name.
While trying to escape the valley, they passed through this canyon and found precious water here. They rested and a few of them left their names on the boulders at what is now known as Jayhawker Spring. One of the 49ers, William Rood, left inscriptions at a few other places around Death Valley; including out on the alluvial and another in Marble Canyon, besides the one here at Jayhawker. This was probably done while scouting an escape route for the party of emigrants.
The Jayhawkers also stumbled across a fabulously rich vein of silver in the area. Too tired and weak to collect much of the silver ore, they took only a few samples. Once they made it to civilization, the rocks were discovered to be nearly pure silver! A piece was fashioned into a gunsight and the legend of the Lost Gunsight Lode was born. It remains to be found.
This is only a brief summary of some events that happened here. I won’t mention the gold coins the Jayhawkers buried somewhere in this land. Oh
If you are interested in more history and hiking directions, check out Michel Digonnet’s remarkable book on Hiking Death Valley.