John Wesley Powell (Part 2)

Photo Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

The Group Divides

Burned into one of the oars is a map of the Colorado River, as charted during Powell’s expedition. The second oar depicts a sketch from the publication Scribner’s Monthly, which highlighted John Wesley Powell in October 1875 alongside an 18-page article detailing the expedition events. These decorative elements of Inn History Grand Canyon pay further tribute to the explorer himself. Continue his harrowing story below.

On August 27, the group reached a place that Powell named Separation Canyon. Towering rock walls rose straight up from the river, leaving the party without an inch of beach for refuge. They had only three boats and this point; all of which were badly battered and taking in water.

That night, after scouting the rapids and making camp on a wet stretch of rocks, Oramel Howland, the man tasked with mapping the river, petitioned Powell to call it quits. Howland proposed a massive climb to the rim and then a 75-mile hike to the nearest settlement. Powell was unwilling to stop before reaching his goal.

It was decided that each man would go their separate ways. Howland, with a third of the crew, and Powell, the other two-thirds. Both groups thought the other was taking the more dangerous route. Though none of the expedition members knew it at the time, they were just days from calmer waters down-river. Unfortunately, Howland and his men were never seen again.

The End of the Expedition

Powell and his remaining men piled into the two most river-worthy boats and left behind some rations and ammunition for the men hiking out. Two days later, on August 29, 1869, Powell and his men passed Grand Wash and knew they had emerged safely at the end of the Grand Canyon and their historic journey.

It would take 80 years from that first expedition for the next 100 people to complete the journey. Now, nearly 20,000 people each year take a professionally outfitted river trip through the national park. While Powell and his crew completed the journey without life jackets and in poorly maneuverable wooden boats, modern river trips most often use large inflatable rubber boats that are motorized and able to complete the journey in only one to two weeks.

To learn more about John Wesley Powell, check out these books: Down the Great Unknown and The Grand Canyon Expedition (located on the console under the television).

Photo Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Photo Credit: U.S. Geological Survey