On July 15, they passed the mouth of the San Rafael River, which came down from the distant mountains in the west. Late in the afternoon of the 16th, they reached the junction of the Green and Grand Rivers. George Bradley said they
The following day they over hauled their rations and found the flour in bad condition. After sifting it all through mosquito netting to take out the lumps, they had only about 600 pounds left.
On the morning of July 21, the party started down the Colorado River.
The men discussed the probabilities of successfully navigating the river below and concluded that:
Trying to keep the boats in single file, they rowed on, cautiously feeling the way. Their voices were drowned by the sound of the river as the water broke over 50-foot-high blocks of limestone. The boats became almost unsteerable as they shot down rapids and fell precariously over falls. Sometimes, caught in whirlpools, the boats spun endlessly.
As they continued, the river became even more swift and winding; the canyon walls narrowed and towered more than 2,000 feet above them, casting dark shadows over the water course. The men made their way with extreme care, hugging the left wall of the canyon and examining the gorge before them. It was with great relief that they finally emerged into open and quiet waters after traveling 41 miles through what was later called Cataract Canyon.
On July 28, they entered a long, straight canyon (later called Narrow Canyon) where the stream ran between low red cliffs. After a short distance, they came upon the mouth of a stream, entering from the right, that was not shown on any of their maps. As the water was muddy and had an unpleasant odor, they immediately named it the Dirty Devil River. On the left wall, opposite the mouth of the river, they discovered the ruins of an old building. After examining the cliffs. they climbed up to the eroded walls of the building and found arrowheads, broken pottery, and primitive etchings on the face of the cliff. Farther down the river, the party discovered a similar group of buildings; Powell surmised that Indians living in the area had fled to these cliffs and canyons for safety when attacked by nomadic tribes.
The explorers reached the mouth of the San Juan River on July 31, and on August 3 they arrived at "El Vado de los Padres" (the Crossing of the Fathers). It was here that the Fathers Garces (credited with naming the river the "Colorado") and Escalante, Spanish priests and explorers of the West, crossed the river in 1776.
The journey continued through a canyon where the river, in its meanderings, had undermined the vertical walls. There were mazes of side canyons and gorges and huge potholes in the rocks. On the canyon walls and back many miles into the country, the explorers saw monument-shaped buttes, carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcoves, gulches, and mounds. They named it Monument Canyon, though later the name was changed to Glen Canyon.
The walls of the canyon they entered on August 5 were the limestone and hard sandstones they had learned to fear in Cataract Canyon. They traveled cautiously in water that boiled between sharp rocks and over limestone ledges. As they proceeded, the canyon walls rose higher and higher. In places, the river occupied the entire channel; the cliffs rose vertically from the water's edge and there was no place to land. The walls were of colored marblewhite, gray, pink, and purple.
Last Updated: 28-Mar-2006