N the 67 years since the death of John Wesley Powell, more I than 100 dams have sprung up in the sprawling seven-state Colo­ rado River basin which he was the first to traverse in the sum­ mer of 1869. But one section, hun­ dreds of mile from any dam or reservoir, remains as remote and rugged as it was a century ago. of the Colorado, a 42 - mile stretch running south from the of the Green and Colorado Rivers to the ap­ proaches of behind Dam in southeastern , is the least traveled section of Old Red. And for good reason. For example, nobody goes through Cataract Canyon in the high - water periods of May and June. At least nobody has gone through during this runoff time and lived to tell about it. The average flow of water through Cataract in April is 13,625 cubic feet per second, just under the over-all annual average. But May's average flow is 2lh times the April figure, and June's is nearly 3lh times. When the high- mountain snow melt tails off in late June or early July, the river drops quickly. The July average through Cataract is 17,361 second-feet, and the August average dips to 8,606 second- feet, according to the U.S. Reclamation Bureau. If the 33-year-old Powell had not dawdled along his route after leav­ ing Green River, Wyo., on May 24, 1869, he would have hit Cataract in flood stage-and perhaps would not have lived to fire American thought about the arid West and set the stage for 20th century conservation programs. To research Empire's two-part series on P o w e 11, photographer George Crouter and I chose to run the C o 1 o r a d o from Moab, Utah, down to the confluence with the Green, through Cataract and into Lake Powell. We chose to do it in early April. At that time the runoff from the Wyoming and Colorado Rockies is just beginning and it's relatively safe to explore the bending, narrow canyon with its 56 hazardous rapids, Danger beckons river runners among the rapids in rarely traveLed Cataract Canyon of the . v

14 t.A .o v 2S 19A9 e "t.APIR(; t.AAGA2lN OF JOHN WESLEY POWELL • Photography by George C-router

many coming in quick succession. " ... We start this morning on the Like Powell, w stopped in ad­ bilities of successfully negotiating Powell, the one-armed Civil War Colorado. The river is r ough, and vance of each series of rapids. We the river below.' ' major and Illinois geology profes­ bad rapids in close succession are had a double purpose-to allow the In his journal Powell frequently sor, arrived at the confluence in found. Two very hard portages are pilot to check the best route ahead refers to dinnertime. He rarely com­ mid-July 1869, camped ther several made during the forenoon. After din­ (left, right or center portion of the plains about the menu, which was days and then spent a harrowing ner, in running a rapid, the Emma stream), and to let the photographer the same for every meal at this eight days g tting through Cataract. Dean (Powell's 16-foot boat named walk along the rocks and get in po­ time: rancid bacon, souring bread, We did it in three days on a rubber for his wife) is swamped and we are sition to catch the boat in its most dried apples and coffee. Others in pontoon raft piloted by a profession­ throum into the river; we cling to violent contortions. the party made up for Powell's lack al river boatman, Ron Smith of Salt her, and in the first quiet water be­ Our first day among the rapids of complaints. Lake City. low she is righted and baiLed out; ended early when we found a good Most of Cataract's rapids are of Cataract is challenging because but three oars are lost. . .. campsite, a broad sandy beach with short duration and comparatively there are f w good places to pull "The larger boats (Maid of the about 150 feet of rock-strewn ground calm water follows. Frequently a into and regroup between rapids. Canyon and Kitty Clyde's Sister, 21 tapering up to the high canyon wall. serene eddy adjoins a rapid and the You have to take a series of rapids feet long) land above the dangerous Threatening clouds were looming to boatmen can pull in to bail out or at a time and take your chances of place, and we make a portage that the south and we didn't want to be rest. The danger arises when there finding a place to stop. And there is occupies all the afternoon. We camp caught in darkness on unfamiliar is a series of rapids, a lot of water no way out of the canyon once the at night on the rocks on the left water. is taken on and there is no con­ trip has begun. bank, and can scarcely find room to Powell, too, made short distances venient place to pull into before the For Empire's novice river run­ lie down." at a time in Cataract, sometimes next white water. stopping in sight of the previous ners, Cataract was a rude awaken­ On July 24, 1869, Powell reported: ing. ln the day and a half covering Th current picks up speed, the day's camp. roar below sounds angrier and the the 68 miles from Moab to the con­ " We examine the rapids below. "On starting (July 23, 1869) we fluence, the Colorado had shown us river seems to b boiling up. For the Large rocks have fallen from the come at once to difficult rapids and its peaceful nature, qui tly rippling first time we see white-foamed tops walls- great, angular blocks ... We falls that, in many places, are more through broad canyons of varied over the muddy brown water. are compelled to make three port­ At about this point, resignation re­ abrupt than in any of the canyons hues, even 1 y banded sandstone ages in succession, the distance be­ through which we have passed, and walls, great bends, sandy banks, an places fear. You know there's no­ ing less than three-fourths of a mile thing you can do at his point we decide to name this Cataract abundance of tamarisk and willows. with a fall of 75 feet. We stop for Canyon," he wrote. Even so, the Colorado in April is except hold on. Our 27-foot pontoon the night; a very hard day's work " The scenery is grand, with rap-­ cold. Heavy with silt, its color is boat goes down into the first big has been done. ids and falls below, and walls above coffee and cream, light on the wave, slides sideways and is tossed "At evening I sit on a rock by the up, down and thataway by the watet· beset un th crags and pinnacles . . . cream. The surface temperature is edge of the river to look at the water c h u r n e d by the rapids beneath. Our way, after dinner, is through a pleasant in th bright desert sun­ and listen to its roar. Hours ago, Whether the raft is swamped or gorge, grand beyond description. shine. But dip into a section shaded deep shadows had settled into the dumped dep nds on how well it The walls are nearly vertical. From by a canyon wall or meet a breeze canyon as the sun passed behind the rolls with the fo rces-and how well the edge of the water to the brink of whipping into your face and you're cliffs. The waves are rolling with the pilot has chosen the course. the eli fs is 1,600 to 1,800 feet. glad you're wearing a heavy jacket. crests of foam so white they seem Smith, 27, has b en a professional " The cliffs are reflected from the Our first night's camp was on a almost to give a light of their own." river runner since his teens and for more quiet river, and we seem to flat rock I dge about 10 feet above the river and adjoining a sandy the past five years bas operated be in the depths of the earth. We On the third day of our April jour- Expeditions Inc. He arrive, early in the afternoon, at the bank. It offered a serene setting • ney we challenged all the remain­ where the brisk air, lapping waters plans to op rate through Cataract head of more rapids and falls but, ing rapids, deciding it was better to wearied with past work, we deter­ and clear starlit sky transported us for the first time this summer. Af­ get good and soaked one day more mine to rest, so go into camp, and far from the urban world. Later, ter the first several rapids in which instead of two. Standing in front of when the moon came up, there was the boat noses deep down and the afternoon and evening are spent a raging driftwood fire in bright an unforgettabl picture of the stark bounces up each tlme with no more by the men in discussing the proba- sunshine during the middle of the silhouetted c a n y on s around us damage to the passenger than a pierced by the glimmering river. good soaking, confidence blooms. That is, until Smith offers the ap­ But this peaceful scene was all but forgotten the next afternoon as praisal, "That was an easy one." we approached the narrowing mouth Powell on July 22, 1869, wrote: of Cataract Canyon. From a dis­ " Our boats are l e a king again tance there came an increasing from the strains received in the bad roar. ln preparation for the violence rapids yesterday. So, after dinner, to come, boatman Smith had super­ they are turned over and some of vised the tie-down of all equipment. the men are engaged in calking He needlessly suggested that we them . . . The canyon walls are be­ "hold on tight." coming higher for now they register Powell faced this portion of the an altitude above the river of nearly river on July 21, 1869, and wrote: 1,500 feet."


E mpire's pontoon raft is swept by the Colorado River current into the churning water of the tortuous southeast Utah canyon.

The Denver Pod • May 2 5, 1969 15 ------If you're planning to ADD A ROOM ORREMODE

Deep in Cataract Canyon, the Empire April expedition prepares to resume the journey as early-morning sunshine bathes the sandy overnight campsite. do it NOW and SAVE! YOU DEAL DIRECT WITH U.S. PLYWOOD ... continued VOYAGE You can have confidence in the results because you afternoon seemed odd. But for folks short distance,' he wrote. "But are dealing with U. S. Ply wood-one of the country's accustomed to the warmth of cen­ fresh meat is too tempting for us largest and most reliable producers of building tral h ating, the fire was great. and we stop early to have a feast. Continuing through the final series And a feast it is! We care not for mate rials. of rapids, we pushed our luck suc­ bread or beans or dried apples to­ C all us for a free estimate--no obligation. Firm price cessfully and found a broad sandy night· coffee and mutton is all we includes everything from custom pla n to f in a l clean­ bank betw en two sharp turns in the ask." river just as the sun was going be­ up. I 00 'l. financing is available. hind a canyon wall. The sands were In similar territory-but we were beautifully ruffled by the winds and well fed by Mr. Smith-we came G U.S. Plywood Remodeling Centers upon a handsome mountain sheep on time. a ledge on the right side of the riv­ During our four days on the river er. He bleated out an incomprehen­ THE WORKBENCH KROONENBERG'S LUMBER we saw no human b ing outside our 7575 West Jewell 1899 So. Broa dway party. Each stop along the channel sible message to us in strong, af­ Phone 986-09 1 I seemed to be in virgin territor y with firmative tones. Phone 744-3659 On the afternoon of July 28 the no evidence of man in any way. The HAPPINESS IS SHRIMP waters at flood stage each year Powell expedition came out of Cat­ cleanse the entire area, leaving be­ aract Canyon and was impressed by ~0~~ {·~~·~ . hind a supply of driftwood and fresh the beauty and vast number of tow­ MoreComfortWearirtg er-shaped rocks in the broad, circu­ sand. FALSE TEETH LUNCH and Branches of a tamarisk tree lar section they call d Mille Crag SANDWICHES Bend. They t r a v e 11 e d smoothly To overcome discomfort when dentures sU p . slide or loosen, Jus f11:30 A.M. to 2 P.M. Only served as perfect hooks for hanging through Narrow Canyon and passed sprinkle a little FASTEETR on your saturated sho s, socks and clothing. plates. FASTEETR holds d ntures COCKTAILS AND DRAFT BEER The sand was warm beneath the the mouth of a river they named the firmer. You eat better. feel more Dirty Devil. comfortable. FASTEETH Is alkallnt> Evenings- Private Banquets surface and it was comforting to dig - won"t sour. Helps check plate odor. Our trip was substantially over Dentures that tit are C$Selltlal to and Receptions in one's toes. When the sun left the health. See your dentist regularly. canyon completely, the spring chill here. has backed Oct FASTEETH at all dn1g counters. CARTWRIGHT'S INN returned. By th n a fire blazed. water up 186 miles to make Lake (Fine Food and Drinlt) Powell, and the river ris high W. Hampden Ave. & Elati, Englewood Colorful and impressive, the Colo­ CLOSED Saturdays and Sundays rado River canyon is overbearing, upon the canyon walls. But the trip demanding and nerve wracking. The has served its purpose. We are changing roar of the water is both mightily impressed with the magni­ exciting and irritable. Powell once tude of Powell's accomplishment 100 described the river as a " prison." years ago. So on this our final evening on the On Aug. 4, 1869, Powell left pres­ river it was pleasant to contemplate ent-day Utah, entered Marble Can­ that the next afternoon we would be yon in and began the final returning to civilization, namely (in four hectic weeks of his journey You don't have to be an order of importance) piped water, through the Grand Canyon. He could advertising expert to sanitary facilities and sand-£ r e e have completed the river explora­ everything. tr..m sooner but his burning inter­ buy, sel l, rent or trade At this stage of Powell's trip, he est in science drove him to frequent through The Post's big had another full month of the un­ sidetrips. known to confront. But near our site Ex-Sgt. George Bradley, one of want ad sec.tion. Just call 2.92-1160 on July 27, 1869, Powell had some­ the most literate of the crew, wrote and let an efficient ad-taker help you thing to cheer about. His party dis­ Aug. 11 in his log: cover d a flock of mountain sheep word your ad for maximum results. on the rocks just a hundred feet "Thank God, the trip is nearly above them. They got two of them. over. The men are uneasy and dis­ contented and anxious to move on. ··we lash our prizes to the deck of If Major does not do something I one of the boats and go on for a fear the consequences, but he is con-

The Denver Post • May 25, 1969 17 Reports of his river 'death' had made Powell a famous man

VOYAGE continued tented and seems to think that bis­ cuit made of sour and musty f1.our and a few dried apples are ample to sustain a laboring man. If he can only study geology he will be happy without food or shelter ..." On Aug. 28, facing what looked like the worst rapid yet and now fe ling the river might go on for- ver, three members of the party who had been with Powell since shortly after he left Denver for the mountains in July 1868 decided to hike out of the canyon. Oramel Howland, a former Rocky Mountain News printer who had named Mt. Powell in the Gore Range for th major; his brother, Seneca, and Bill Dunn "left us with good feelings though we deeply re­ gret their loss for they are fine fel­ lows as I ever had the good fortune to meet, ' Bradley wrote. Powell described breakfast that morning as " solemn as a funeral." He tried to dissuade the three from leaving, to no avail. The last rapids weren't as bad as they looked. And what none of the party realized was that the end of the journey and safety would come the next afternoon at the mouth of the , near the Mormon settlement of Callville. Dunn and the Rowlands made it out of the canyon and were be­ friended by Shivwits Jndians, who doubted but temporarily accepted their story of coming out of the riv­ er. Shortly after the trio continued on, the Shivwits received a report that some white prospectors had mo­ l st d and shot a squaw. The Indians th n discounted the wild river story as lies and followed the trail of the Rowlands and Dunn. They shot them with arrows as they lay asleep. It was a horrible mistake. A year lat r when Powell returned to the area in a continuing study of the land and its people, the Shiv­ wits remorsefully confessed their er­ ror to him. Powell returned to civilization through Salt Lake City - where he made his first speech about the 99- day exploration - and then board­ ed the newly completed Union Pa­ cific Railroad for Illinois. The major quickly discovered he was a famous man. During hjs river trip a number of stories - including one laborate hoax - described the violent death of his party. ' A good friend of mine had gath­ ered a great number of obituary notices and it was interesting and rather lattering to me to discover the high esteem in which I had been held by the peopl e of the ," he l ate1· ob se rved. " I n m y

May 25, 1969 e EMP IRE MAGAZINE Powell's big fight was to show the West was different

VOYAGE continued supposed death I had attained to a H urged that water monopolies be glo1·y which I fear my continued life abolished. His lifelong campaign for has not fully vindicated." this has been termed the most pa­ triotic work of his career. From Powell's viewpoint he was But who should establish the dams doing pure scientific investigation. and reservoirs to provide irrigation He didn't write up the trip as an ad­ water? The government, he assert­ venture story until persuaded to do ed. This shocked America's rugged so five years later, after other re­ individualists, even rs - ports already were circulated. that is, xcept the Western pioneer When Powell reached home at Il­ who was seeing his homestead and linois Industrial University, he knew savings blown away with the dust. his future was not in the classroom. Th major's revolutionary ideas on What he had seen on the G r e at land, water and government partici­ Plains and in the Colorado River pation in science started men think­ Basin convinced him there was a ing. In 1878 he prompted a congres­ vast cha1lenge in understanding the sional investigation that resulted in West and explaining it to others. He consolidation of the four western wound up his affairs in Illinois and survey and creation of the U.S. resigned from the faculty. Geological Survey in 1879 . . The winter of 1869-1870 was sp nt Dynamic and ambitious-as much on a lecture tour through the Mid­ for the West as himself-Powell at west and East - and in Washing­ 47 was named USGS director in 1881. ton, D.C., promoting his scientific The river rum1er had achieved the future. He succeeded in getting Con­ highest position then attainable in gress to establish the Powell Sur­ John Wesley Powell's toughness scientific circles. The U.S. govern­ vey, th fourth group then named to was forged on Colorado peaks and ment hasn't been out of scientific explore and map portions of the research and leadership since. rivers. He was 64 in 1898 (above). West. Congress gave him an initial After y ars of pleading for gov­ appropriation of $12,000 to study the ernment action to impound waters special commissioner for the Bu­ Colorado and its tributaries. for agricultural use, Powell's fore­ reau of Indian Affairs. Thereafter His colleagues - and competitors casts of disaster were borne out - in the western surveys were h sp nt much time in Washington w~t~ a drought that began in 1886, where his zeal for public servic , F rdinand V. Hayden, Clar nee w1pmg ou small homesteaders. brilliant mind and special knowledge 1Gng and Lt. George M. Wheeler, all It as 10 years ear 1 i e r that of whom had a hand in exploring inspired the respect and friend hip Powell had spelled out a program of of the nation s most powerful men. parts of Colorado. In the fall of 1870 conservation in his Report on the The best measure of his ability he returned to southern Utah where Lands of the Arid Region of the wa his grasp of the problems fac­ an intelligent and trustworthy Mor­ United States, a book acclaimed ing settlers in the arid land of the mon guide, , who more recently as "one of the most West - 40 per cent of the nation's had been a s s i g n e d by Brigham remarkable ever written by an land mass. There were certain truths Young, helped Powell "open doors" American ... which of itself opened about the West that Powell would among the natives. a new era in Western and national spend the rest of his life asserting, Pow ll had a remarkable way thinking." and it wasn't until his death that with Indians. probably because he Powell suggested in his book a they were generally acknowledged. genuinely trusted them. He studied program for land west of the 100th Powell pointed out that the West them b cause of a thirst for knowl- meridian, that portion beyond a line was a dry land that could not be dge of the early American culture, slicing north to south through west­ conquered by rugged individualism, and he studied their lands with a ern Kansas. Pointing out that annual no matter how much individual toil view to promoting his next explora­ rainfall was insufficient to sustain and sweat was put into it. But this tion. an economy, he urged reservoir was th heyday of individual er­ From 1871 to 1879 the P o we 11 sites be reserved to provide water. prise elsewhere in the United States Survey was similar to the other He s id pasturage in this region of and Powell's assertions were repug­ great surveys. His g eo log i s t s less than 2,560 acres would be un­ nant to the mystical vision of the climbed the cliffs and crossed the economical. On the other hand irri­ West. plateaus, hacked at the rocks and gated farms of 80 acres would be The idea of making a high-plains examined the fragments, analyzed more than enough. homes ead pay off without a depend­ their findings and shipped speci­ On Feb. 13, 1888, a Senate resolu­ mens to the . able source of water was a myth, tion asked the secretary of the in­ A second river expedition was much as the myth that rain follows the plow. But the myth was fostered terior whether Powell's USGS should conduct d in 1871-1872 but Powell segregate irrigable lands and desig­ was off the river repeatedly for in­ by those with too much pride to ad­ nate reservoirs and canal sites in the land journeys, and the trip actually mit th truth - or too many selfish arid region. was led by his brother-in-law, Al­ interests. mon Harris Thompson, superintend­ Powell knew firsthand - since Powell jumped to explain his ent of schools in Bloomington, Ill., his exp riences as a farmboy in "general plan' to Congress. Within and later chief geographer of the -of the fallacies of U.S. a month it push d through a United States Geological S u r v e y land policies and the criminal waste­ joint resolution directing an exam­ (USGS) from 1878 until he died in fulnes made possible by them. In ination of arid areas for "the prac­ 1906. Thompson had been a member his 1873 annual report he urged an ticability of constructing reservoirs. of Powell's original parties to Den­ end to unplanned exploitation of the . . . and such other facts as bear on ver and eastern Colorado in 1867 West. Land classification, he con­ the question." and 1868. tended, s h o u I d specify min ral "Areas" involved were not spell­ Powell spent most of 1873 study­ l?nds, coal lands, irrigable lands, ed out. Not one to underestimate his ing Utah and Nevada trib s as a timber lands and pasturage lands. authority, Powell assumed the arid

The Denver Post • May 25, 1969 VOYAGE continued region to be all of the West receiv­ ing less than 20 inches of annual rainfall - all of what we now refer to as the West. On Oct. 2, 1888, his "Irrigation Survey" was authorized in a $100,- 000 appropriation bill. The resolution had carried two little - noticed amendments: one directing the withdrawal from homesteading all lands that the survey designated ir­ rigable; the other providing that these lands could be restored to public settlement under the Home­ stead Act on proclamation of the President. But the resolution didn't specify how anyone could tell which lands were irrigable - and not available for settlement - until Powell desig­ nated them. The Land 0 f f ice promptly withdrew 850 million acres from entry. President Grover Cleve­ land backed the ruling. Congress without knowing it had done j u s t what Powell said should be done: repeal all the outmoded land laws. At that point in U.S. history, John Wesley Powell alone could d e t e r­ mine how the West would be devel­ oped. He could dictate by his loca­ tion of reservoirs and canals, and by his selection of land to be irri­ gated, the pattern Western develop- The rapids behind, aU is calm and scenic on the appr oach to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. ....

ment should follow. He could block dust bowl of the 1930s - took place bill eliminating all clauses dealing adopted to make the West a "dream." big water and land companies. He in a Senate committee room in with the reservation of irrigable A few months before his d e a t h, could distribute resources accord­ early July 1890. Powell, a veteran lands and thus opening the public Powell was vindicated when Presi­ ing to his own philosophy. witness and accomplished speaker, domain again. dent Theodore Roosevelt told C o o­ Historian put it was under attack. Powell's plan to bring science, jus­ gress in 1902 to create the reclama­ this way: "He could all but com­ Senators said his powers were ex­ tice and happiness to the people in tion service. "It is as right for the mand the sun to stand still in the cessive; he was telling the Presi­ the region he loved was swept as1de national government to make the West until he told it to go on." dent what to do; he was getting like a driftlog in a Cataract Canyon s reams and rivers of the arid re­ While his Irrigation Survey was un­ government into the business of ir­ current. In May 1894 Powell resign­ gion useful by engineering works for der way, Powell constantly spoke rigation. All three statements were ed as USGS director. He was still water storage as to make useful the and wrote of his plan to develop the substantially true. regarded by some as the world's rivers and harbors of the humid re­ West considering the land, water, A congressman asked him leading scientist. His list of honors gion by engineering works of anoth­ erosion, floods, soil conservation wouldn't it be better to leave to na­ was still lengthening. Yet he knew er ·nd " Roosevelt said. and even the newfangled hydro­ ture the flow of water in the great he had failed to convince the nation Po ·ell was quoted by his nephew, electric power. He emphasized that streams and the common incidents of the urgency of the truths he pro­ , as saying, the little man had to be protected of human life. POWlded. Untold natural and human "These things take time, Arthur. from both natural conditions and the resources would be lost forever. You "I think it would be almost a mu learn to control impati­ exploiter. What was Powell? A democratic always be impatient.'' criminal act to go on as we are By June 1890 Powell had tenta­ idealist? A true public servant? An doing now, and allow thousands and , Arthur Davis as an engi­ tively selected 30 million acres of unselfjsh American? A most useful hundreds of thousands of people to neer in e new U.S. Reclamation irrigable land and designated 200 res­ citizen? Service conce ved a broad proposal ervoir sites to the General Land establish homes where they cannot Bernard DeVoto, the late editor, maintain themselves," Powell re­ for development of the lower Colo­ Office for reservation. Western con­ author and historian, called Powell plied. rado River under unified control of gressmen, with an ear to the vested "a great man and prophet. His ca­ the federal government with a great interests including their own, now The feeling remained, especially reer was an indomitable effort to dam - Hoover Dam of the 1930s - realized how far Powell had gone. among Western congressmen, that substitute knowledge for the miscon­ to store floods and serve as heart of They moved to repudiate the Irri­ it was unpatriotic to admit the West ceptions and to get it acted on." the project. gation Survey that they themselves was dry. No one, not even John Conservation and reclamation The major died Sept. 23, 1902, in had initiated and to squelch this Wesley Powell, was going to change measures of the 1900s to the present Haven, Maine. a and was buried man Powell who was working too their way of thinking! are essentially Powell's plan of 1878. in Arlington . ·a ·onal Cemetery. A hard for the public interest. Shortsighted, selfish, vindictive, If Powell were to look at a 1969 map century after Powell discovered the The beginning of the end of the Senate majority in 1890 dealt on the use and management and rec­ "truths" of the Wes floating down Powell's drive to prevent waste and Powell the major defeat of his life: lamation of western lands, he could the Colorado River the nation is dis­ disaster in the West - such as the an amendment to the appropriation say all his suggestions ·ere being covering John Wesle ·Po ell. •