Do not miss this book! It is a very important piece of our Western United States Legacy. It is is not just about John Wesley Powell and his trip down the Colorado River through the might Grand Canyon. (although it is a great read about his adventure and quite a good yarn!) It also ponders the development of the West and some history of it's many explorers and thrillseekers.
If you really want to understand how the West was developed this is a must read.
Stegner was a wonderful writer!
I love Wallace Stegner, but just couldn\'t warm up to this. Maybe because it\'s non-fiction. It\'s about Wesley Powell, a geologist who worked to protect the American West. Hope someone else can enjoy this book.
One of my favorite authors has written a biography/history of John Wesley Powell and the exploration of the Colorado River valley. In the first part of the book, Powell, with only one arm, doggedly pursues his goal of navigating and mapping the river. Stegner includes enough excitement and intrigue to keep you turning the pages. The latter portion concerns the subsequent attempts at settlement, development, and struggles between ranching/mining interests and governmental attempts to limit exploitation of land and settlers. Sadly, politicians haven't changed much over the decades.
Powell had a vision for the west that would have vastly altered its present incarnation, and may have avoided many of the problems that currently plague the area. A good read with lots of history.
Powell came to "know the West as few men did and understand its problems better (6)." It was considered a desert in Pike's time but Wm. Gilpin described it as a 'Garden of Eden' and part of America's 'Manifest Destiny.'
The author offers a great amount of detail. Powell used a 'lining system;' rather than just running the river.
Stegner notes that Powell joined public service to practice science just as Henry Adams was leaving it because of corruption. JWP was to have his problems in D.C. and with territorial (and later state) governments.
Powell is best known for voyaging down the Colorado River but I would argue that his work in attempting to avoid settlers taking upo land in areas with insufficient rainfall is even more significant. The 20 inch annual rainfall line runs through Missouri and points West experience not only less rainfall but increasingly variable precipitation.
For a short while, Powell obtained Congressional support for a geological survey of the far western lands in order to classify them so that agricultural failures in years of scant rainfall would be avoided by not allowing incongruent uses in the first place. For example, a settler might need 1,000 acres to support his family in an area with rainfall sufficient only for light grazing.
Entries were actually closed under the Homestead Act, leading to a storm of complaints from would be settlers and their representatives. That soon ended this attempt at âscientific' land use. The work was dependent on appropriations to hire hydraulic engineers, engrave maps, etc. Note that the 1890 Congress included several states admitted in 1889.
I had trouble getting into it, although I've liked Stegner's fiction.