Macomb's San Juan Exploring Expedition (1859)

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


Macomb’s San Juan Exploring Expedition led by Captain John N. Macomb, had military and political origins. Its primary purposes were to locate a route for the movement of military supplies from Santa Fé, New Mexico to Utah, and to map unknown portions of the geography in the western United States. Despite these missions, as the explorers traveled the Old Spanish Trail, collectors like Botanist John S. Newberry had ample time to study the environment. While continuing travels along the San Juan River, rainy weather proved a challenged for preserving the zoological and botanical specimens collected. The party continued on and explored the mountains and tributaries of the San Juan River and the Rio Navajo tributary. Newberry took a side trip to find the junction of the Grand and Green Rivers.


  • Goetzmann, W.H. Army Exploration in the American West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959.
  • Madsen, Steven K. Exploring desert stone: John N. Macomb’s 1859 expedition to the canyonlands of the Colorado. Logan Utah: Utah State University Press, 2010.
  • Newberry, John S. Report of the exploring expedition from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the junction of the Grand and Green Rivers of the great Colorado of the West, in 1859: under the command of Capt. J.N. Macomb, Corps of topographical engineers. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1876.

Date Range

1859 - 1859


  • Geology
  • Zoology
  • Plants
  • Paleontology
  • Botany


  • United States
  • New Mexico
  • Colorado
  • Utah


Expedition name