Lead: Of the suffering experienced by Americans making their way west across the mountains to California, none is more tragic than that of the Donner Party.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the summer of 1846 the lure of good land and moderate climate was drawing many Americans from their homes in the East and Midwest to risk the privation and hard travel necessary to cross the deserts and mountains to a new home on the Pacific Coast. Some went north along the much travelled trail to Oregon. Other parties went due west over the Continental Divide, skirted the Great Salt Lake, crossed the Nevada desert basin and braving the passes of the Sierra Nevada range made their way into the fertile Sacramento River valley. The key to this trip was time. If a group negotiated the wilderness and was ready to address the Sierra crossing by mid-September then they would probably make the hard journey without difficulty, but if by late October the climb over the mountains was delayed, if snow blocked the way ahead, if the wagons were light of provision and the oxen were lean and tired then the story might be a tragic one. Such was fate of the 89 members of the Donner Party. Forty-two never made it to California.