Major PowellMajor Powell's second expedition spent the winter ashore at Lee's Ferry, and did side trips to the new Mormon settlement of Kanab. Major John Wesley Powell!



March 24, 1834 Sept. 23, 1902

We all think of Major Powell as being the stern commander of the first two exploratory trips down the Colorado River from Green River, Wyoming thru the Grand Canyon. While in fact he was a civil war veteran, he also spent many years surveying the west and studying the Native Americans of the area.

Major Powell is famous for his two river trips down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869 and 1871-72 which took him through The Grand Canyon. A one-armed veteran of the Civil War, Powell ran the wild, raging, Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with nine men in three small boats. It was he who named the great gorge and many of its side canyons and formations. A scientist first, he took time to explore the backcountry. He and his party climbed the Echo Peaks and a route out of the Little Colorado River Gorge. They also explored the House Rock Valley and the Kaibab Plateau. 

Major John Wesley Powell was a geologist and ethnologist who published the first classification of American Indian languages and was the first director of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology and head of the U.S. Geological Survey.

In 1867 Major Powell began the first of many expeditions to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah; and the Canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers in Utah and Arizona. In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell was only 35 years old when he began his first expedition through the Grand Canyon from Green River, Wyoming. He was a geologist, and a teacher. From 1871 to 1879 Major Powell directed a federal geologic and geographic survey of western lands in the public domain and encouraged the government to initiate land-utilization projects.

He published three major works:

and later:

"August 13, 1869 We are now ready to start on our way down the Great Unknown. Our boats, tied to a common stake, chafe each other as they are tossed by the fretful river. They ride high and buoyant, for their loads are lighter than we could desire. We have but a month's rations remaining. The flour has been resifted through the mosquito-net sieve; the spoiled bacon has been dried and the worst of it boiled. The few pounds of dried apples have been spread in the sun and reshrunken to their normal bulk. The sugar has all melted and gone on its way down the river. But we have a large sack of coffee. The lightening of the boats has this advantage: they will ride the waves better and we shall have but little to carry when we make a portage.

"We are three quarters of a mile in the depths of the earth, and the great river shrinks into insignificance as it dashes its angry waves against the walls and cliffs that rise to the world above; the waves are but puny ripples, and we but pigmies, running up and down the sands or lost among the boulders.

"We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! we may conjecture many things. The men talk as cheerfully as ever; but to me the cheer is somber and the jests are ghastly."


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