The first organized attempt to conquer the swirling rapids and precipitous walled canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers was made by Major John Wesley Powell, Civil War hero and explorer. Warned by Indians and mountaineers they would never return alive, Powell and 9 companions started from Green River Station, Wyoming Territory, on May 24, 1869, with 4 boats, instruments for making scientific observations, and provisions to last 10 months. For 97 days Powell and his men battled the elements, enduring tremendous deprivation and hardship. One man (Frank Goodman) left the company early in the journey, and 3 others (William Dunn, O.G. and Seneca Howland) later killed by Shivwits Indians, deserted near Grand Canyon, Arizona. On August 29, 1869, the 6 remaining men arrived at the junction of the Rio Virgin in southern Nevada, having navigated and charted over 900 miles of the river. In May, 1871, 2 years after his first river voyage, J.W. Powell again led an exploring party of 11 men in 3 boats down the Green and Colorado Rivers. Well into 1873 members of Powell’s party continued extensive and significant exploration and surveys of the region bordering the rivers traversed. The Powell Surveys are some of the most significant explorations achieved anywhere in the world.
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