Major Powell, Colorado River Explorer
The first organized attempt to conquer the swirling rapids and precipitous
walled canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers was made by Major John Wesley
Powell, Civil War hero and explorer. Warned by Indians and mountaineers they
would never return alive, Powell and 9 companions started from Green River Station,
Wyoming Territory on May 24, 1869 with 4 boats, instruments for making
scientific observations, and provisions to last 10 months. For 97 days Powell
and his men battled the elements, enduring tremendous deprivation and hardship.
One man (Frank Goodman) left the company early in the journey, and 3 others
(William Dunn, O.G. and Seneca Howland), later killed by Shivwit Indians,
deserted near Grand Canyon, Arizona. On August 29, 1869, the 6 remaining men (J.W. and
J.H. Powell, W.R. Hawkins, A. Hall, J.C. Sumner, and G.Y. Bradley) arrived at the
junction of the Rio Virgin in Southern Nevada, having navigated and charted over
900 miles of the river.
In May 1871, 2 years after his first river voyage, J.W. Powell again led an
exploring party of 11 men in 3 boats down the Green and Colorado Rivers. Well
into 1873 members of Powell's party continued extensive and significant exploration
and surveys of the region bordering the rivers traversed. The Powell Surveys
are some of the most significant explorations achieved anywhere in the world.