The weekend after next is important in Green River as this small town in Utah celebrates its melons. For over 100 years this community of about 1,000 has had a parade, melons in the park, etc. If the 2 we bought are any indication, they will be delicious because this area that is pretty empty and dry has the perfect climate for growing them. Most people who zoom by Green River on I-70 are heading for Colorado. That usually describes Ruth and me too. But this year we overnighted there and discovered that, in addition to great melons, it has one 5 Compass attraction.
The John Wesley Powell River History Museum in on the actual Green River. In 1869 Butch Cassidy, who would later hide out at the McPherson Ranch 60 miles north of this town, was only 3 years old. John Wesley Powell was 35 and a Civil War veteran. This museum is named for him because he floated by this point on his historic expeditions to learn about it in 1869.
Powell was lucky to be alive. During the Civil War in the Battle of Shiloh he lost his right arm and nearly died. The pain never left him. The River History Museum describes him as “Impatient, ambitious, and strong-willed” as it documents his 2 history-making journeys down the Green and Colorado.
The 1st expedition left from Green River, Wyoming, and ended where the Virgin and Colorado Rivers met. Eight men went with Powell, but 3 of them walked away during the float and were never seen again. I suspect personal conflicts caused them to abandon the expedition. I asked if Powell kept a log of his journey down the 2 rivers and was told that he didn’t but that he led a 2nd one that he was, at least, better prepared for.
One museum display said that the first float became more of a race for survival and resulted in faulty mapping and other errors. One the 2nd attempt 2 years later Powell, at least, knew what to expect as he traversed the beautiful but desolate lower Colorado Plateau. On the 1st, none of the participants knew what was ahead of them when they left Wyoming.
An award-winning, full-length documentary about the first float is available in the gift shop. A 20 minute excerpt can and should be seen before exploring the museum. Lots of rocks, rapids, and human conflict were shown to be part of the 1st journey.
The museum does an excellent job of showing the landforms Powell would have seen on both journeys as it explores the tensions and physical problems participants faced. It said the 2nd expedition was more leisurely than the 1st for the 11 men who accompanied Powell and noted that he decided to leave it early to the delight of the crew. Hmmmm.