On this date in 1869, the explorer John Wesley Powell and his team set out on an epic journey into "The Great Unknown," a large blank space on the maps of the day, including the Grand Canyon and much of the American Southwest. The Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869 was the first thorough cartographic and scientific exploration of the Green and Colorado rivers, which included the first recorded passage of white men through the entirety of the Grand Canyon.
“You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.”
~ John Wesley Powell
I often think about this quote above from Powell when photographing the Grand Canyon from the rim or the river. It's an immensely complex landscape that is often misunderstood by many to be nothing more than a big hole in the ground, but the reality is much more complex and interesting, with the Grand Canyon being the home to hundreds of smaller canyons within its depths. These smaller canyons are tributaries to the Colorado River, feeding into it from both sides of the river. Known as "side canyons," they each have unique characteristics and features, including waterfalls, slot canyons, boulder jams, and hanging gardens fed by springs or seeps.
To begin to know and appreciate the Grand Canyon, you must spend time exploring it, watching the light and shadows evolve, and waiting for the moment when the elements come together to create a special moment. I have recently returned from the canyon to take a group of 12 photographers down 226 miles of the Colorado River on a photography expedition. I am thankful to have the privilege of spending a lot of time getting to know the canyon, witnessing many special moments, and for the opportunity to share the place I love with others.
Below and on the following page is a collection of photographs I made on this recent trip. I hope you enjoy seeing them and perhaps even develop a better understanding of what makes the Grand Canyon and Colorado River a truly special place.