"Down the Great Unknown"
It's 1869. Ten men in four wooden boats are about to embark on a journey of 1000 miles through a canyon that is completely uncharted. In three months, five of the original company plus their one-armed Civild Ware her-leader emerge from the depths of the Grand Canyon at the mouth of the Virgin River.
They start from Green River Station in Wyoming amid shouts and cheers. Many of those cheering probably wonder if they would ever see these ten again,
With moments of calm and beauty, to chaos and crashes against the water and rocks for the first months, Frank Goodman approaches leader Powell and says, "I have had more excitement than a man deserves in a lifetime I am leaving." One boat lost, many of the provisions boggled up by the torrents of the river, Goodman exits the river. The group have not even made it to the Colorado River yet.
More rapids, more surprises, more learning by the troupe. To avoid disaster, portaging around rapids helps to save many of the supplies and instruments that are left but this takes time and energy. But three others are not feeling the love. Two brothers and another try to talk Powell into abandoning the trip, afraid they will all die seeing only more danger ahead. So, they bid farewell at Separation Canyon (get it?). Powell leaves behind one of the boats for the three just in case they change their minds.
It so happens that there are only two remaining major rapids. Ad in two days Powell and the five remaining men reach the mouth of the Virgin River which is under Lake Meade today, There are settlers there who are fishing on the river bank and are stunned because the rumors were that the men had probably all died after three months.
For Powell the expedition was a success because he sought to explore and confirm his theory of the Grand Canyon, a region advised and unknown for centuries. The three that climbed out of the canyon did not have a successful event. They were mistaken by the Shivwit natives who thought they were miners that had killed a Hualapai woman.
Powell makes more expeditions into the Southwest, becomes director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and director of the Smithsonian's Bureau of Ethnology.
POWELL, JOHN WESLEY biography
By Margaret S. Bearnson
John Wesley Powell was born 24 March 1834 at Mount Morris in western New York state. His parents moved to Illinois, where he was educated at Wheaton and Oberlin colleges. He became interested in botany and geology at an early age, and began geological work with a series of field trips, including a trip the length of the Mississippi River in a rowboat; he also traveled the Ohio and Illinois rivers.
In 1861 he enlisted in the Union Army and was commissioned a captain when he recruited a company of artillery. At the battle of Shiloh he lost his right arm at the elbow. He nevertheless returned to active duty and was promoted to the rank of major.
After his discharge in 1865, he was appointed professor of geology and curator of the museum at Illinois Wesleyan University at Bloomington. He later became a lecturer and curator at the museum of Illinois Normal University.
In 1867 he commenced a series of expeditions to the Rocky Mountains and the canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. During his most famous expedition, from 24 May through 30 August 1869, he and his party made a daring nine-hundred-mile journey with four boats, traveling from the Union Pacific Railroad crossing of the Green River in Wyoming down through the Grand Canyon. He repeated much of the journey again in 1871 and 1872 to make a more thorough study of the Green and Colorado rivers.
In addition to his work in geology and botany, he studied the West's Native Americans and their languages. He founded and was named the first director of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology, a position he held until his death. In 1879 the United States Geological Survey was organized and in 1880, following Clarence King's resignation, Powell became the director of the survey, a position he held until 1894.
While Powell is most widely known as the first explorer of the Colorado River, he also made significant contributions as an administrator and as an advocate for conservation and careful planning in the use of western lands. He argued that because of their arid nature, western public lands should be classified as to their potential use for irrigation, pasturage, timber, and mineral or coal extraction. Powell also maintained that the traditional 160-acre farm as provided for in the Homestead Act was much too small for grazing purposes in the West. Instead, grazing farms there should be expanded to no less than 2,560 acres in order profitably to support herds.
His principal publications were: Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries (1875), which was revised and enlarged as Canyons of the Colorado in 1895; Report on the Geology of the Eastern Portion of the Uinta Mountains (1876); Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States (1879); Introduction to the Study of Indian Languages (1880); and Truth and Error, or the Science of Intellection (1898).
John Wesley Powell married Emma Dean in March 1862, and the couple had one child, a daughter, Mary Dean Powell, born 8 September 1871 in Salt Lake City. Powell died in Haven, Maine, on 23 September 1892 and is buried in the officers' section of Arlington National Cemetery.