Here is another selection of photos from Bob Symons’ collection, lent to us by his daughter, Pat Rowbottom.
For background on Bob and his aerial photos of the Mammoth area, click here.
Bob did a lot photography of Death Valley both from the air and on the ground. Many of these are from the Death Valley 49ers’ Encampment celebration that has happened around November each year since 1949 to celebrate the 1849 gold rush that went through Death Valley.
The line of vehicles is leading into the Furnace Creek Inn and Death Valley Ranch, where many of the festivities take place. Bob’s overhead view illustrates the popularity of the event. Traffic stretched for miles beyond the valley, toward Highway 395. There were competitions like art shows, flapjack-making contests, donkey and mule races, square dancing and the twenty mule team wagon restorations. This was also the birth of the Death Valley Days TV show.
In some of the photos, an airstrip is visible near the road from which guests could fly in and out. When the inn was first built, Hollywood movie stars often flew to Death Valley for vacations in seclusion.
That’s all we’ve got to share from Bob Symons’ collection for now, but we’re working with Pat to try and do something larger with his collection. It probably won’t be on this website, but we may help her build her own to be able to share his images and stories. He was a fascinating man and contributed a lot to aviation in the Eastern Sierra. Hopefully more of his story will be published soon.
Thanks again to Pat Rowbottom for these images and words.