John Wesley Powell Quotes

john wesley powell quotes

John Wesley Powell is one of America’s most beloved and influential writers. His works are known for their explorations and writings. He was a Union general during the Civil War, and was wounded at Vicksburg. However, he returned to his post in time to participate in the raid on Meridan, and was later promoted to major of the 17th army corps and chief of artillery of the department of Tennessee. He also took part in the battles of Franklin and Atlanta. His experiences during the war helped him form the idea to explore the Grand Canyon.

Expedition to the Grand Canyon

The first expedition to the Grand Canyon was led by John Wesley Powell in 1869. He and his companions had crossed the Virgin River, which is now under Lake Mead, and were greeted by settlers on the bank. Three months later, they had not been heard from again. Their family presumed that they were dead. Fortunately, they were found alive and rescued. John Wesley Powell believed that the river and canyons were formed before the Plateau, and that the river had come before the canyons.

The Grand Canyon is a place of great mystery and beauty. Powell once called the Grand Canyon the “library of the Gods” and “the stoney leaves of one great book.” As he wandered its vast expanses, he read the language of the universe, the story of the dinosaurs and the formation of mountains.


The British author H.G. Wells once described an utopia based on bicycle paths, which he thought would become ubiquitous. He also envisioned the development of consumer and producer cooperatives, using labor scrip instead of money. While his vision of a perfect society was utopian, it proved too restrictive for a nation that was expanding.

While Powell sought to make the western world a more equitable place, his ideas were not popular with his audience. In the 19th century, Westerners desired a narrative that would support the westward expansion. Today, the western states lead the nation in economic growth and population. In fact, they ranked among the fastest-growing states between 2016 and 2017. The same states, however, have experienced drought and parched cities.

Manifest Destiny

In 1862, the Homestead Act had just been passed and the Colorado Plateau was a blank spot on the map. Powell argued that the human population had outgrown the region’s resources and that a land monopoly would ensure that people had a right to it. His arguments were widely criticized. The critics criticized his scientific conclusions and derided his proposals to limit development and practice self-imposed regulation. They also saw his ideas as antithetical to the American empire. The American West was a time of individual perseverance and private industry, and the proposal of self-regulation and cooperative labor was perceived as antithetical to the spirit of the nation.

The American people are highly intelligent, enterprising, and well-aware of their own interests. The American people love liberty unbounded, revere justice profoundly, and obey the law without question. Because of this, each American is a freeman king, able to rule his own destiny.

Conservation of land

John Wesley Powell was the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and he advocated preserving lands west of the 100th meridian, which he believed would be unsuitable for agriculture. He also advocated organizing settlements around water, which would encourage cooperation and local control and force people to conserve land.

In 1893, Powell spoke at a conference on western settlement and irrigation. He warned of the need to conserve water resources or risk conflict and litigation over water rights. He also warned that there was not enough water to supply all of the land. His words would prove prophetic.