Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner recounts the remarkable career of Major John Wesley Powell, the distinguished ethnologist and geologist who explored the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, and the homeland of the Southwest Indian tribes. This classic work is a penetrating and insightful study of the Powell’s career, from the beginning of the Powell Survey, in which Powell and his men famously became the first to descend the Colorado River, to his eventual expulsion from the Geological Survey.
In masterful prose, Stegner details the expedition, as well as the philosophies and ideas that drove Powell.
©1954 Wallace E. Stegner (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Stegner's most exciting work." (San Francisco Chronicle)
“The surrender of self-righteousness would be an enormous boon to the environmental cause. Acknowledging the unedited, complicated, utilitarian John Wesley Powell as an ideological parent would be a big step in that laudable direction, and it is this step that Worster's thorough and empathetic biography makes possible.” (Los Angeles Times)
“No library of western/southwestern materials can be without this book…” (Books of the Southwest)
The first few chapters describing Powell first descent are incredibly well written and exciting but then Stegner turns his descriptive prose to a discussion of the ethereal beauty and geography of the plateau country. For those who delight in details, the time may be rewarding but for me, it goes on far too long.
This book is not for the casual reader, but is a delight for anyone interested in John Wesley Powell, exploration of the West, or the history of western land and water policies. Stegner is a great story teller. He gives a more nuanced explanation of Powell's exploration of the Grand Canyon than Powell himself does. Of even more interest to me was the story of Powell's career with the Geologic Service and his insight into the problems with western settlement into the "arid lands". Powell was a keen observer and was a true scientist who dealt with observable facts as opposed to the "boosterism" of western congressmen and developers. It is worthwhile reading this book just to compare Powell's observations to today's problems with water policy.
This is an important work for the origins of the environmental movement as testified to by Mr. Stegner. All who enjoy wilderness and western history should appreciate this work as well as those interested in post civil war federal politics and bureaucracy.
Good account of Powell's two exploratory trips down the Grand Canyon when almost nothing was known.
The book is too long winded and bogs down in Powell's political life, after his explorations.
Into the Depths of the Unknown
The long views of John Wesley Powell have had a profound effect on our American lives through his work with the Smithsonian and the creation of the USGS. The powers of greed and avarice did their very best to destroy him and pretty much succeeded. Yet, his legacy has endured in spite of the intellectual midgets of his day.
This book was copyrighted in 1953&1954. I have been aware of this book for years and regret taking so long to finally get to it.
5 stars across the board for Wallace Stegner and the exacting work in critically chronicling the life of John Wesley Powell.
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