Today, the raft journey through the Grand Canyon is one of the West’s great white-water thrills. But it’s hard to imagine just how daunting the trip must have been in 1869, when John Wesley Powell decided to attempt it. Back then, the canyon was utterly unexplored – it existed on maps as a blank spot in the desert southwest. Powell was a geology professor from Illinois who had lost his right arm as an officer during the Civil War. Despite this handicap, he got together nine men, mostly from his own friends and relatives, and transported four wooden boats to Green River in Wyoming , the start of the navigable route. Waving goodbye to a few well-wishers by the riverbank, they set off to face 1,000 miles by river through Utah and Arizona. As Powell himself put it: “What (water) falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not.”
The challenge was extreme: the intrepid group had to learn how to tackle rapids as they went, with their boats regularly overturning, and subsisted on a diet of dry biscuits for much of the time. Three men became so discouraged they decided to hike out through the desert; they were never heard from again, and are presumed killed by Indians. But Powell and his men would go on to emerge unscathed at the southern end of the Grand Canyon, three months after their trip had begun. Powell became a national celebrity, as famous in the United States as Neil Armstrong would become after walking on the moon – coincidentally, exactly a century later.
Destinations aren’t just places on a map. They’re the backdrop for some of the most fascinating stories in history. What story might you discover next with Globus and Vado Travel LLC?
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