John Wesley Powell and Canyonlands National Park

We went to a ranger program in Canyonlands about John Wesley Powell. Cool guy.

J.W. Powell
J.W. Powell

In 1869, Powell left Green River, Utah and rafted into the unknown. The area was a big empty spot on every map at the time. They knew two rivers entered the area and only one exited — like a cage-match fight between streams. He prepared, in a word, foolishly. They had roll-happy boats; they packed too little food thinking they’d kill deer along the way (tough given the 1,000-foot cliffs that border the river). But they made it (despite all being whitewater rafting novices at the start) — most of them did, at least. At the aptly named Separation Rapids, a few men spooked, certain of their demise, and climbed out of the canyon only to be killed by the locals. The rest made it through just fine. Oh, and Powell did it all with one arm. The dude is nails.

A chunk of the team ended up enjoying themselves so much that they resupplied when “done” and continued along the river until it eventually dumped them into the ocean. Badass.

Unfortunately, Canyonlands is furloughing a bunch of rangers over the summer and cutting the programs. They’ll resume in the fall. We saw the last one of the season.