A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell

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Biography of John Wesley Powell, explorer, geologist and anthropologist, who served as director of the Smithsonian's Bureau of Ethnology from its founding in 1879 until his death in 1902. Written by western historian Donald Worster, the volume traces Powell's Civil War service and focuses on his epic journey down the Colorado River to the Grand Canyon in 1869. Worster traces Powell's extensive field work in the West and his administrative career as head of both the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington, including the many political battles Powell was forced to wage with advocates of uncontrolled development in the West.


  • Powell, John Wesley 1834-1902
  • Colorado River Survey
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology


Smithsonian History Bibliography

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


  • 2001
  • Civil War, 1861-1865


  • Discovery and exploration
  • Explorers
  • Scientific expeditions
  • Geologists
  • Conservationists
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Biography
  • Anthropologists


  • Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)
  • United States
  • West (U.S.)
  • Grand Canyon (Ariz.)


First edition

Physical description

Number of pages: 673

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