John Wesley Powell, Grand Canyon Explorer

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Who was Major John Wesley Powell, and why is he important to the Grand Canyon?

John Wesley Powell, Grand Canyon Explorer

Major John Wesley Powell, a well known veteran who lost an arm during the Civil War, was the first known white man to explore the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. In 1869, Powell and a group of nine other men left Green River, Wyoming and began a journey that would lead to the Colorado.

In essence, Powell's trip was the first Grand Canyon whitewater rafting expedition, although he had no idea of what he would face at the time. He and his men used large, wooden boats with keels that were entirely unsuited for the rapids of the Colorado. They suffered many hazards, including loss of supplies, boats, and crew members, but five men including Powell did make it thorough the canyon to the Virgin River at the mouth of the canyon.

Today, Grand Canyon rafting trips have come a long way from the trials Powell and his men faced. However, Powell's account of his adventures along the Colorado raised public interest in the area, and ultimately led to the throngs of people anxious to experience Grand Canyon whitewater rafting today.



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