Celebrating John Wesley Powell's 150th anniversary

Shannon Garrison and her dog, "Zoey," enjoy a relaxing day on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon.

Pageites mark sesquicentennial of Powell's journey with kayak trip through Glen Canyon

Story and photo by Steven Law
Special to the Chronicle

COLORADO RIVER, Ariz. – On May 24, 1869, John Wesley Powell and a crew of nine men departed from Green River Station, Wyoming Territory, with the goal of exploring and mapping the river corridors of the Colorado and Green rivers.

Two and a half months into their 99-day journey, they camped just above the Crossing of the Fathers. On Aug. 4, they traveled along the Colorado from Crossing of the Fathers to the mouth of the Paria River, what it now Lees Ferry. Lees Ferry didn’t yet exist in 1869.

To commemorate the auspicious date last Sunday, several groups from Page boated on the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry––some of them in kayaks, some in drift boats, some in pimped-out pontoon boats.

When Cherry Odelberg heard there was a group kayaking down the river that day, she leapt at the chance to join them.

“I went because I love the Colorado River and it was a historic day,” she said. “I want to touch on the Colorado River wherever I can.”

Odelberg has interacted with the Colorado River from it top to its end and many points in between. She’s waded in it at its headwaters at Rocky Mountain National Park, and visited the Salton Sea, which used to be filled by the Colorado River in days before all its water got used up. She’s also touched on it in Moab, Grand Junction, and in Lake Havasu.

“It was such an enjoyable day,” she said.

George Hardeen was also among the group of kayakers that day. Hardeen works as the public relations director for Navajo Generating Station on weekdays and works as a river guide for Wilderness River Adventures on the weekends giving river tours from the dam to Lees Ferry.

“I work weekends in Glen Canyon and there’s nothing I like better than to be on the river,” he said. “When the opportunity came to kayak it, which is a different way for me to experience it, I had no hesitation.”

Hardeen said the day floating along in his kayak was one he’ll remember for a long time.

“I love the crystal clarity of the river and the beautiful red rocks that surrounds us, to say nothing of the historic day that we got to commemorate,” Hardeen said. “It was a great day, hanging out with one of my best friends, and making several new friends. It was a day of celebration and camaraderie.”

Page locals Mick and Gina Swapp also celebrated the day taking their pontoon raft “River Time” up the river. They camped at Ferry Swale on Saturday night, and celebrated Mick’s 63rd birthday on the river Sunday.

During the hot part of the afternoon Mick pulled his raft into the shade of a cliff, tied off, and serenaded his friends, who watched from their kayaks, with his original river songs.

Two companies offer back hauls for people wishing to kayak or raft the stretch of river from the dam to Lees Ferry.

One of the companies, Kayak the Colorado, also offers kayak, canoe and oar boat rentals (928-856-0012).

Information: Wilderness River Adventures, 800-992-8022


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