Way We Were: A most arduous journey

Nichole S. Gehr

A Park City Boy Scout troop expedition along the Colorado River led by Kendall Webb, June 1958.
Park Metropolis Historical Society & Museum, Kendall Webb Assortment

In Might 1869, John Wesley Powell and his crew began a 13-7 days, close to 1,000-mile exploration of the Environmentally friendly and Colorado rivers. They carried two sextants, 4 chronometers and a selection of barometers, thermometers and compasses. The equipment enabled the get together to survey the “Great Unfamiliar,” as the river system was referred to as.

On June 9, 1869 in the Lodore Canyon, the celebration dropped just one of their 4 boats, the No Name, in a violent fast. The boat, which had water-proof compartments, broke in two. Sad to say, all of the party’s barometers have been in the No Title. Without the need of barometers, Powell’s expedition would be not able to evaluate elevations of the Colorado Plateau terrain, one of the key aims of the exploration.

As luck had it, the next day Powell and his gentlemen ended up ready to reach a stranded portion of the boat, and retrieved a number of barometers and a smaller keg of whiskey, thus preserving some suggests and enthusiasm to chart the territory.



The voyage grew ever more arduous. The concentration turned from scientific measurement to sheer survival as the party’s food stuff source and operating equipment were being reduced speedy by quick. In a way, the voyage was a collection of barometric readings punctuated by boating incidents. By late August, they had shed or broken all the scientific instruments, but experienced created call with neighborhood settlers, who furnished them with food items and shelter. Finally, Powell remaining the Colorado at the confluence of the Virgin River and returned to Salt Lake Town.

The 1869 exploration receives the headlines due to its remarkable episodes, but Powell’s subsequent exploration essentially completed a lot of of the scientific aims he in the beginning envisioned.



In April 1871, Powell embarked on a second float. Armed with foreknowledge and a new system, the get together attained the Paria River/Lee’s Ferry region, which was farther upstream than the former expedition’s finish position. There they still left their boats. The celebration commenced to take a look at the region by horseback, with the aim of setting up a foundation line for topographic measurement. Reaching the Kanab space, Powell’s organizational qualities and desire for precision led to a significant advancement in our country’s expertise of the Southwest.

Powell’s get together set up a precise nine-mile foundation line south from Kanab into Arizona. The course of action involved a contraption of 14-foot poles, plummets, wires, and other impedimenta to measure a true line around uneven terrain. It took months to accomplish the survey with accuracy. Some days they only highly developed quite a few hundred yards.

In February 1872, they established the north stop of the foundation line was 14,863 feet from the 37th Parallel, the Utah-Arizona border. With the foundation line set up, they sighted on nearby peaks and other geographic attributes. The proliferation of triangular sections started.

Eventually the interlocking triangles ranged considerably and broad. In accordance to the Utah Historical Quarterly:

At this position the expedition broke up the Kanab Gap camp, went to the west close of the Kaibab Plateau, then by way of Pipe Spring to the Mt. Trumbull place, and then to Berry Spring — 10 miles higher than Washington, Utah, on the Virgin River…Toward the stop of May perhaps they began in a northeast route from Kanab toward the Filthy Devil River region and the Henry Mountains…On still yet another extended trip — down the Colorado from Lee’s Ferry to the mouth of Kanab Creek Gulch and again to Kanab — the gentlemen of the Powell Survey were extending the technique of triangles from the base line at Kanab.

Powell’s topographers, F.S. Dellenbaugh and John Renshaw, filled in the particulars and a map was produced and delivered to Washington, D.C. in a direct tube.

Two other technologic enhancements helped the hard work. Initially, the occasion utilized a telegraph line from Kanab to Salt Lake Town to validate astronomical observations. The “time checks” they carried out enabled Powell’s staff to verify the actual longitude and latitude of the foundation line in the vicinity of Kanab. Next, Powell employed the rising know-how of pictures to present a perspective of the Southwestern landscape. These pictures by E. O. Beaman, J. K. Hillers, and W. C. Powell (Powell’s cousin) did much to show the rest of the U.S. what a treasure they had in the Colorado Plateau.

Regional pilot Dorian DeMaio will give a lecture on the program of Powell’s 1869 expedition from a pilot’s viewpoint on Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. Sign-up for the lecture at parkcityhistory.org, and stay tuned for an write-up about an expedition that traveled as a result of our area.

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