Grand Canyon Exploration Log June 28 – July 4, 1869

Posted on History

June 28, — To-day the scenery on either side of the river is much the same as yesterday, except that two or three lakes are discovered, lying in the valley to the west. After dinner we run but a few minutes when we discover the mouth of the Uinta, a river coming in from the west. Up the valley of this stream about 40 miles the reservation of the Uinta Indians is situated. We propose to go there and see if we can replenish our mess-kit, and perhaps send letters to friends. We also desire to establish an astronomic station here; and here will be our stopping place for several days”.

“Some years ago Captain Berthoud surveyed a stage route from Salt Lake City to Denver, and this is the place where he crossed the Green River. His party was encamped here for some time, constructing a ferry boat and opening a road”.

“A little above the mouth of the Uinta, on the west side of the Green, there is a lake of several thousand acres. We carry out boat across the divide between this and the river, have a row on its quiet waters, and succeed in shooting several ducks”.

June 29, — “A mile and three quarters from here is the junction of the White River with the Green. The White has its source far to the east in the Rocky Mountains. This morning I cross the Green and go over into the valley of the White and extend my walk several miles along its winding way, until at last I come in sight of some strangely carved rocks, named by General Hughes, in his journal, ’Goblin City’.

Our last winter’s camp was situated a hundred miles above the point reached to-day. The course of the river, for much of the distance is through canyons; but at some places valleys are found. Excepting these little valleys, the region is one of great desolation: arid, almost treeless, with bluffs, hills, ledges of rock, and drifting sands. Along the course of the Green, however, from the foot of Split Mountain Canyon to a point some distance below the mouth of the Uinta, there are many groves of cottonwood, natural meadows, and rich lands. This arable belt extends some distance up the White River on the east and the Uinta on the west, and the time must soon come when settlers will penetrate this country and make homes”.


June 30, — “We have a row up the Uinta to-day, but are not able to make much headway against the swift current, and hence conclude we must walk all the way to the agency”.

July 1, — “Two days have been employed in obtaining the local time, taking observations for latitude and longitude, and making excursions into the adjacent country. This morning, with two of the men, I start for the agency. It is a toilsome walk, 20 miles of the distance being across a sand desert. Toward evening we cross several beautiful streams, tributaries of the Uinta, and pass through pine groves and meadows, arriving at the reservation just at dusk. Captain Dodds, the agent, is away, having gone to Salt Lake City, but his assistants receive us very kindly. It is rather pleasant to see a house once more, and some evidences of civilization, even if it is on an Indian reservation several days’ ride from the nearest home of the white man”.

July 2, — “I go this morning to visit Tsauwiat. This old chief is but the wreck of a man, and no longer has influence. Looking at him one can scarcely realize that he is a man. His skin is shrunken, wrinkled, and dry, and seems to cover no more than a form of bones. He is said to more than 100 years old”.

“I talk a little with him, but his conversation is incoherent, though he seems to take pride in showing me some medals that must have been given him many years ago. He has a pipe which he says he has used a long time. I offer to exchange with him, and he seems to be glad to accept; so I add another to my collection of pipes”.

“His wife, ‘The Bishop’, as she is called, a very garrulous old woman; she exerts a great influence, and is much revered. She is the only Indian woman I have known to occupy a place in the council ring. She seems very much younger than her husband, and, though wrinkled and ugly, is still vigorous. She has much to say to me concerning the condition of the people, and seems anxious that they learn to cultivate the soil, own farms, and live like white men”.

“After talking a couple of hours with these old people, I go to see the farms. They are situated in a very beautiful district, where any fine streams of water meander across alluvial plains and meadows. These creeks have a considerable fall, and it is easy to take waters out above and overflow the lands with them”.

“It will be remembered that irrigation is necessary in this dry climate to successful farming. Quite a number of Indians have each a patch of ground of two to three acres, on which they are raising wheat, potatoes, turnips, pumpkins, melons, and other vegetables. Most of the crops are looking well, and it is rather surprising with what pride they show us they are able to cultivate crops like white men”.

“They are still occupying lodges, and refuse to build houses, assigning as a reason that when any one dies in a lodge it is always abandoned, and very often burned with all the effects of the deceased; and when houses have been built for them the houses have been treated the same way. With their unclean habits, a fixed residence would doubtless be no pleasant place”. 

Powell’s deep interest in Archeology and Anthropology is evident in the following entry.
This beautiful valley has been the home of a higher grade of civilization than the present Utes. Evidences of this are quite abundant; on our way here yesterday we discovered fragments of pottery in many places along the trail; and wandering about the farms to-day, I find the foundations of ancient houses, and mealing stones that were not used by nomadic people, as they are too heavy to be transported by such tribes, and are deeply worn. The Indians, seeing that I am interested in these matters, take pains to show me several other places where these evidences remain, and tell me that they know nothing about the people who formerly dwelt here. They further tell me that up in the canyon the rocks are covered with pictures”.

Major Powell did not make any entries for the 3rd and 4th of July, he resumes his journal on July 5th, and that is where we will pick up the journey.