Powell150

150th Anniversary of the Powell Expedition

Welcome to the Powell150 education and outreach site!  Learn about John Wesley Powell's historic expedition of the Green and Colorado Rivers below, and check in with this year's modern day expedition that mirrors the original.

Expedition, Then and Now

Expedition, Then and Now

For information about the 1869 and 2019 Colorado River Exploring Expeditions, follow this link.

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USGS Science Today

USGS Science Today

To learn more about the science USGS is doing today, including experiments and data collection on the expedition, click here.

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Lessons and Activities

Lessons and Activities

For lessons and activities that are related to rivers and John Wesley Powell, click here.

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The U.S. Geological Survey and partnering organizations are marking the 150th anniversary of the Powell Expedition, an exploration of the Green and Colorado Rivers that ended in the Grand Canyon. Led by scientist and Civil War amputee John Wesley Powell, a team of 10 men in four small wooden boats departed Green River Wyoming on May 24, 1869. Only six men and two boats completed the 95-day journey, but the expedition succeeded in recording some of the earliest known maps, data, topographic measurements, geology, and local Native American culture, for much of the treacherous Colorado River that runs through modern-day Grand Canyon National Park.

Powell later became the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey as well as the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution, and a co-founder of the National Geographic Society.

The USGS continues to do important science along the river and to contribute information to decision-makers who are working to manage the river basin as a resource for water, recreation, and power in Western states. The focus of the education and outreach efforts surrounding the Powell150 Expedition is to inform and engage the public around the geology and ecology of rivers in general and this river system in particular and to raise public awareness of the natural resources of the Colorado River Basin and USGS science.

While USGS is marking this occasion as an opportunity to highlight the science of the Colorado River Basin, it’s important to note that indigenous people had been present in the area for over 15,000 years, and tribes in the 19th century had a great deal of knowledge about the river and ecosystems of their homeland.  Western migration by white settlers brought conflict and devastating consequences to Native peoples and their natural and cultural resources. In acknowledgment of this, we hope to hear about Native American perspectives on river science, including traditional cultural practices, during community outreach events and discussions throughout this year's expedition.