Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/175

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
The Colorado River

in 1857 and 1858, published in 1861, the year the memorable shot was fired at Port Sumter. The Colorado was forgotten.

So far the explorer had merely examined the dragon's teeth, but in 1867 Major J. W. Powell, a veteran of the Federal army, investigating the geology of the Territory of Colorado, conceived the idea of exploring the mysterious and fateful canyons by descending through their entire length of a thousand miles in small boats.

The same year an uneducated man, James White, was rescued near Callville from a raft on which he had come down the river some distance. His condition was pitiful. He was interviewed by Dr. Parry, who happened to be there with a railway survey party, and Parry told White that he must have come through the "Big" canyon. White therefore said he had, when assured that he had, although he did not know the topography of the canyons neither did Dr. Parry, nor any one else. The White story was first told in General Palmer's Report of Surveys Across the Continent in 1867-68 on the 35th and 32nd Parallels, etc. (1869). It was repeated in William A. Bell's New Tracks in North America (1869) and quite recently has been republished with notes and comments by Thomas F. Dawson in The Grand Canyon, Doc. 42, Senate, 65th Cong.,1st Sess. (1917).

Mr. Dawson, like others who have not run the huge and numerous rapids of the Grand Canyon, believes that White went through on his frail little raft, but all who know the Canyon well are certain that White did not make the passage and that the story that he did rests entirely on what Dr. Parry thought. It is only necessary to add that White found but one big rapid in his course, whereas there are dozens in the distance it is claimed that he travelled. The river falls 1850 feet in the Grand Canyon, 480 in Marble Canyon, and 690 between this and the junction of the Green and Grand, or a total of 3020 feet in the distance White is said to have gone.

In the spring of 1869 Major Powell started from the Union Pacific Railway in Wyoming and descended, in partly decked rowboats, through the thousand miles of canyons so closely connected that they are well-nigh one, with a total descent of 5375 feet to the mouth of the Virgin. In 1871-72 he made a second descent to complete the exploration and to obtain the