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The Powell150 Journey Retraces John Wesley Powell Expedition

The Powell150 Journey Retraces John Wesley Powell Expedition
August 01
12:26 2019
Tom Minckley

Powell 150 leader, Tom Minckley
Image courtesy: SCREE

In the first trip of its kind, John Wesley Powell led an expedition 150 years ago of a group of explorers to document the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers. To commemorate this historic journey on its 150th anniversary,  a group of artists, scientists, and geologists are in the later stages of their 70 day, 1000 mile trip to retrace Powell’s expedition. Just reaching Lake Powell this week by canoe, the group traveled about 700 miles so far from Green River, Wyoming on their way to the expedition’s ending at the Virgin River.

The beginning of the group’s trip started with a letter back on April 25, 2016 to Secretary of the Interior  requesting “… to use the anniversary of the first Powell expedition as an avenue to analyze and refocus attention on the potential of western lands as a national trust and the role of the Department of the Interior and other Federal Agencies in Western development, public land planning, and the value of natural sciences“. Thus the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition (SCREE) 150th-anniversary trip, dubbed the Powell150, was born.

The 150th anniversary of the Colorado River Exploring Expedition offers an opportunity to once again begin a systematic and deliberate expedition into the unexplored territory of Western economies, politics, and ideologies as they relate to the water resources of the Colorado River Basin.

The updates to the group’s current location and status can be seen on their website, Powell150.org

powell watershed map

Powell detailed the Western U.S.’s arid land and produced this map.
Image courtesy: USGS

Originally, Powell and his crew traveled over 900 miles from Green River, Wyoming to the mouth of the Virgin River, in present-day Lake Mead, through a wild, largely uninhabited system of river canyons. This was the first group to travel in a continuous, deliberate progression in this area and continues to be explored by adventurous boatmen and boatwomen today.

The Civil War veteran Powell later became the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey as well as the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution, and a co-founder of the National Geographic Society.

Find additional facts about John Wesley Powell, Lake Powell and the Colorado River at the JOHN WESLEY POWELL MUSEUM located at 6 N Lake Powell Blvd in Page Arizona
While USGS is marking this occasion as an opportunity to highlight the science of the Colorado River Basin, it’s important to note that indigenous people had been present in the area for over 15,000 years, and tribes in the 19th century had a great deal of knowledge about the river and ecosystems of their homeland.

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