The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

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The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell is a classic[1][2] of American exploration literature. It is about the Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869 which was the first trip down the Colorado River by boat, including the first trip through the Grand Canyon.

Powell's first written accounts of his exploration appeared in the January, February and March 1875 editions of Scribner’s Monthly as "The Canons of the Colorado".[3] The Smithsonian published it in book form in 1875 under title Report of the Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries. Explored in 1869, 1870, 1871, and 1872, under the direction of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. It was revised and published in 1895 as The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.[4]

It includes hundreds of wood engravings based on photographs by E.O. Beaman, James Fennemore and John Karl Hillers, and drawings by Thomas Moran.[4]


  1. ^ According to Wallace Stegner "Nearly everyone who runs any part of the canyons now .. either carries this story of Powell's in his duffelbag or has it read or recited to him around the fire while the tamed Colorado slips past." Source: Penguin edition, "Introduction", 2003, ISBN 0-14-243752-2
  2. ^ National Geographic ranked it 4th on its list of 100 all time best adventure books.
  3. ^ "The Canons of the Colorado", Scribner's Monthly, Volume 9, Issues 3-5, January–March 1875.
  4. ^ a b Penguin edition, Wallace Stegner, "Introduction", 2003, ISBN 0-14-243752-2

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