Place

Powell Point

A small platform of rock extends out into a vast canyon landscape
Only the sharpest eye will be able to spot the tiny patch of River that gave Powell such hardship.

NPS

Quick Facts
Location:
South Rim

Benches/Seating, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Scenic View/Photo Spot

Climb the Powell Memorial, which commemorates the first exploratory trips down the Colorado River (1869 and 1871-72) by Major John Wesley Powell and expedition crews. This is a great viewpoint with stunning vistas for sunset and sunrise. A two-way shuttle bus stop makes visiting here easy and a nice quick option for those limited on time.

What's in a name?

The story of Grand Canyon as we know it is tied directly to John Wesley Powell. As a geologist Powell grew interested in exploring the unknown canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. He studied reports from earlier expeditions, but in the late 1800s there wasn't much to go on and most of what was available was inaccurate and jaded by the perceptions of early explorers. Gathering support and supplies from the Smithsonian Institution, railroads, educational institutions, and Congress for his expedition down the Green River. He designed his own boats and gathered a makeshift crew of ex-trappers, mountain men, and Civil War veterans like himself. The expedition launched four boats from Green River, Wyoming in May 24, 1869 to explore the course of the river, fill in the blank spots that littered maps of the southwest, and to gather scientific data.

After three summer months spent exploring the upper canyons of the Colorado River, the expedition passed the Paria River on August 4 hungry, exhuasted both mentally and physically, and with only musty apples, spoiled bacon, wet flour, and coffee remaining to sustain them they entered the last and greatest of the canyons. The scientific expedition had turned into a fight for their very survival as they entered into Grand Canyon. Powell referred to Grand Canyon as “our granite prison” and described an almost unbroken series of rapids that the expedition ran, lined, or portaged, praying all the while for an end to the ordeal. On August 28, the canyon ended and the river became relatively quiet once again. They had survived, and in doing so became the first recorded people to successfully navigate from Green River, Wyoming to the Black Canyon of Arizona/Neveda.

After a near disatrous first trip that cost Powell’s most of his notes and scientific data, a few boats, and multiple men, he secured full federal funding to a second trip. Powell gathered a new crew, this time including amateur scientists and educated men, and he began a second expedition on May 22, 1871. Between his two trips down the river Powell gathered invaulable information and data and literally helped to put Grand Canyon on a map. Further studies in the area over the next few years, by both Powell and his peers in the geologic community, helped to lay the foundation of how we understand Grand Canyon geology today. 

Grand Canyon National Park

Last updated: November 7, 2021