Thursday, November 5, 2009

Exploration of the Colorado River

Many of you have read J. W. Powell's The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons. I thought it would be a dull text-like exposition, but started reading it a few years ago and found it to be an exciting story as Major Powell, with one arm, climbs all over the various cliffs and inclines along the river. The book is a reprinting by Dover Publications, Inc. of New York, containing 250 illustrations and photographs, and a map, first published in 1961 by Dover.

Major Powell sets out in May of 1869 with nine men to explore the last open space on the map of the country. Three men mutiny before it's over and leave the party and are murdered by the Indians. Nobody knew what it was going to be like when they started out, but they found treacherous canyons with walls 5,000 feet high, hunger, turbulent and smooth waters, and battles with the water no one thought possible before it was over. He describes the geographic, geologic, and seismic details of the landscape, plus the vegetation and animal life as they make their way down the thousand-mile long river.

It's a common-place thing these days to run the rapids of the Colorado with tour guides and all, but on this initial exploration there were no guides to tell what was coming up next and would they survive the grueling rapids in their oar-powered boats? A dangerous undertaking and six men survived.


  1. One of my favorite books is THE MAN WHO WALKED THROUGH TIME about the first individual to travel the entire Grand Canyon. I'm sure I would find The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons just as interesting.

  2. Dave: I think you would, and all the illustrations make it even better.