April 30, 2011
Lake Powell (1)
Lake Powell (3)
Lake Powell (4)
Lake Powell (5)
John Wesley Powell (March 24, 1834 – September 23, 1902) was a U.S. soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West, and director of major scientific and cultural institutions. He is famous for the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition, a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers that included the first known passage through the Grand Canyon.
Powell served as second director of the US Geological Survey (1881–1894) and proposed policies for development of the arid West which were prescient for his accurate evaluation of conditions. He was director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution, where he supported linguistic and sociological research and publications.
From 1867 Powell led a series of expeditions into the Rocky Mountains and around the Green and Colorado rivers. In 1869 he set out to explore the Colorado and the Grand Canyon. Gathering nine men, four boats and food for 10 months, he set out from Green River, Wyoming on May 24. Passing through dangerous rapids, the group passed down the Green River to its confluence with the Colorado River (then also known as the Grand River upriver from the junction), near present-day Moab, Utah and completed the journey on August 13, 1869. The expedition's route traveled through the Utah canyons of the Colorado River, which Powell described in his published diary as having
". . . wonderful features—carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcove gulches, mounds and monuments. From which of these features shall we select a name? We decide to call it Glen Canyon."
One man (Goodman) quit after the first month, and another three (Dunn and the Howland brothers) left at Separation Rapid in the third. This was just two days before the group reached the mouth of the Virgin River on August 30, after traversing almost 930 mi (1,500 km). The latter three disappeared; historians have speculated they were killed by the Shivwitz band of the Northern Paiute. How and why they died remains a mystery debated by Powell biographers. Some, including Jon Krakauer in his Under the Banner of Heaven, have raised the possibility of a Mormon ambush.
Powell retraced the route in 1871-1872 with another expedition, resulting in photographs (by John K. Hillers), an accurate map and various papers. In planning this expedition, he employed the services of Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon missionary in southern Utah and northern Arizona, who had cultivated excellent relationships with Native Americans. Before setting out, Powell used Hamblin as a negotiator to ensure the safety of his expedition from local Indian groups. Powell believed they had killed the three men lost from his previous expedition. Wallace Stegner states that Powell knew the men had been killed by the Indians in a case of mistaken identity.
Members of the first Powell expedition:
▪ John Wesley Powell, trip organizer and leader, major in the Civil War
▪ J. C. Sumner, hunter, trapper, soldier in the Civil War
▪ William H. Dunn, hunter, trapper from Colorado
▪ W. H. Powell, captain in the Civil War
▪ G.Y. Bradley, lieutenant in the Civil War, expedition chronicler
▪ O. G. Howland, printer, editor, hunter
▪ Seneca Howland
▪ Frank Goodman, Englishman, adventurer
▪ W. R. Hawkins, cook, soldier in Civil War
▪ Andrew Hall, Scotsman, the youngest of the expedition
▪ F.M. Bishop, cartographer