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The 150th anniversary of the 1869 Powell expedition—USGS participation in the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition and reflections from the ~1,000-mile journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers

December 14, 2020

In 1869, John Wesley Powell completed the first well-recorded scientific river journey to explore an extensive region of the Colorado River Basin. Powell later helped to establish the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and served as its second director (1881–94), cementing his position in the folklore of the Survey. In 2019, the USGS marked the 150th anniversary of Powell’s first expedition with a broad-scale educational campaign as an opportunity to highlight current USGS science in the region through the lens of an exciting river expedition, with the goal of inspiring the next generation of USGS scientists. The project included a partnership with the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition (SCREE), which traveled the length of the original route for ~1,000 river miles from Green River, Wyoming, to Lake Mead, Nevada, including the Grand Canyon. Small, interdisciplinary groups of USGS employees joined each segment of the journey, gathered data to be used for educational purposes, participated in community outreach events, and upon return shared their experiences with their local communities. This report documents a photographic journey of the expedition, personal vignettes from the USGS participants, Science Stories to explain the scope of the experiments, and Then and Now articles (which were published online during the expedition), to explore some of the changes that have occurred since the first expedition.

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