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Dominguez v Escalante

Two hundred years ago, while thirteen eastern colonies were giving
birth to the United States of America, a small party of Spanish
explorers was forging its way through the vast expanse of virgin
territory now known as the American Southwest. Led by Fathers
Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante, the
explorers left Santa Fe on horseback on July 23, 1776. Their goal was
to discover a northern overland route to Monterey, California, and to
spread the Catholic faith to those Indians they met along the way.
Escalante meticulously recorded details of their journey through the
Spanish lands in his diary, and this together with a famous map of the
territory done by Miera, greatly increased the geographic knowledge
of the time.

In early September, the missionaries made slow and difficult progress
Spanish Fork canyon, gateway to the beautiful Utah Valley
and the home of the Timpanogas Utes. Preaching Christianity to these
Indians constituted the spiritual climax of the expedition. But on
October 8, discouraged by the cold, shortage of supplies, and the fact
that the Indians knew of no ocean, only more desert, the Fathers
decided to turn back to Santa Fe. Six days later the provisions ran out
and if they had continued westeard, they almost certainly would have
starved in the snow covered foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.

The most difficult part of the journey was the crossing of the Colorado
River. After exploring the formidable terrain for over a week, they
finally reached a ford that appeared shallow enough to cross. It lay at
the bottom of a mile-wide canyon, and in order for the horses to make it
down the steep, rocky sides, it was necessary to cut footholds in the
rock. Today these are completely covered by the waters of Lake
Powell. The "Crossing of the Fathers" was finally accomplished on
November 7. On January 2, 1777, the Padres reached Santa Fe,
having covered close to 2,600 miles, thus ending their journey of great

Don't miss the rest of our virtual tour of Milford, Utah in 563 images.