If you are interested in a river rafting adventure, you will probably enjoy a book I read recently about the John Wesley Powell Expedition. Powell and his crew were the first to take boats all the way through the canyons of the Green River and Colorado River back in 1869. It is always fascinating to me to read about the very same places that Western River now takes guests with much greater ease and comfort–but no less scenery and thrill.
The book, titled, “Down the Great Unknown” by Edward Dolnick, is a very easy read –more like a novel than you might think. The author makes great comparisons to help the reader understand the river currents, describing the rapids they encountered, and the descriptions of scenery along the way help the reader feel they are right there on the journey.
The author takes from the journals of all the men in the crew and gives the most complete picture of their trials of any I’ve read. Powell’s journal, if read alone, would give a rosy picture of their hardship — as though it was something to build character, but nothing life-threatening. On the contrary, these men endured near-starvation towards the end, and walking their heavy boats around the rapids was more time-consuming and draining than merely running the rapids would have been. No doubt the men who dared this adventure were a different breed, with a need for adventure beyond what many would choose among today’s comforts.
We have to thank their courage and determination –and Powell’s unwavering optimism, for opening up the rivers and canyons of the west. Now, at least, we know to bring a lot more bacon on our trips than they did.