For a River Heritage Museum at Grand Canyon National Park

River History

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” — Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows)

What lies down the river, ‘round the bend…beyond the sunset?

Adventure!

Since the beginning of human time, we have pondered what we do not know. To satisfy our endless curiosity we explore. First with our feet and then when those cannot take us far enough we create craft to carry us further into the unknown. Weaving reeds together, ancient humans put together the first boats and cast off, first on the rivers and then the oceans of the world to satisfy that innate desire we share to know more, to experience more, to see more, to better understand our world.

People have been living in, visiting and traveling in what we call the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River for nearly 11,000 years. Travel through the rugged canyon for most of that time was restricted to foot. With the arrival of the first Euro-Americans on horseback to the canyon rim nearly five hundred years ago, settlers and adventurers wondered what secrets and treasure the Grand Canyon contained far below, where the river winds its way through sheer cliffs of bright colors, wind swept gorges and hot, desert valleys.

It was not long before the young United States had swept its way from coast to coast, but still what lay within the vast Grand Canyon remained largely an uncharted mystery until John Wesley Powell and his hardy crew of ten in four boats wound their way through vast expanses of Canyon dotted with huge rapids and seemingly endless flat waters. They had not enough food nor provisions, and no certainty as to where the river would take them. By the end of Powell’s first voyage, only three boats survived and four of crew had left the trip, having had, as one of those who departed said “more excitement than a man deserves in a lifetime.”

The Grand Canyon River Heritage Museum is intended to provide a permanent home for the National Park Service’s irreplaceable collection of pioneer watercraft and related artifacts first used to navigate through the Grand Canyon. The museum will tell the story of those early boatmen, their adventures and travails as well as featuring the evolution of the modern craft that ply the Canyon waters, bringing opportunity to today’s travelers seeking their own adventures and mystery in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

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