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On May 22, 1871 John Wesley Powell and his expedition launched the second expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers. The three boats set off from this location, reports say that large portions of the town came to see the visitors off. Though neither journey was well-known at the time Powell's expeditions have gained significant notoriety more than a century later. Powell's reports would include a variety of surveying and map results, and a groundbreaking understanding of the watersheds of the Western United States. Most of his work was ignored, including his suggestions that the Homestead Act of 1862 did not take into consideration the realities of the watersheds west of the Mississippi.


  • 1871 Powell expedition launch site

On May 22, 1871 John Wesley Powell and his expedition launched the second expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers. The three boats set off from this location, reports say that large portions of the town came to see the visitors off. Though neither journey was well-known at the time Powell's expeditions have gained significant notoriety more than a century later. Powell's reports would include a variety of surveying and map results, and a groundbreaking understanding of the watersheds of the Western United States. Most of his work was ignored, including his suggestions that the Homestead Act of 1862 did not take into consideration the realities of the watersheds west of the Mississippi.

This was the second expedition Powell undertook, his first journey was in 1869 without a photographer. As such most of the information and images come from this second expedition. Thus it is more difficult to confirm but Powell probably started his first expedition from a nearby if not identical location. Powell's boats were transported from Chicago to Green River for free courtesy of the Union Pacific.

“We had some trouble in making a landing where we wanted to, in a little cove on the east side about half a mile down, which had been selected as a good place for our preparatory operations. Here the three boats were hauled out to receive the final touches. They were named Emma Dean, Nellie Powell, and Canonita.” -Frederick Dellenbaugh, artist for the 1871 expedition.

"Having made up my mind to explore the gorge, I came from the mountains to Chicago last spring, to procure outfit and build boats. Four of these were made on a model devised for the purpose of navigating cañon streams; and taking them out to Green River Stations, where the Union Pacific Railroad crosses the Green, I was ready to embark.

[Powell’s boats, supplies and expedition members were transported FREE courtesy of the U.P.R.R.]

There I had a party of nine men awaiting my arrival, and anxious to enter the "Great Unknown" with me—all men experienced in the wild life of the country, and most of them in boating on dangerous streams." ~ Major Powell's Report on His Explorations of the Rio Colorado in 1869

Expedition Island and the local Expedition Academy are both named for John Wesley Powell's expeditions. A statue of John Wesley Powell is at the nearby Sweetwater County Historical Museum.

Hein, Rebecca. John Wesley Powell: Explorer, Thinker, Scientist, and Bureaucrat, WyoHistory.org. December 26th 2018. Accessed April 23rd 2020. https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/john-wesley-powell-explorer-thinker-scientist-and-bureaucrat.

John Wesley Powell's Exploration of the Colorado River, National Park Service. Accessed April 23rd 2020. https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/geology/publications/inf/powell/sec3.htm.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

E.O Beaman