War Department Explorations and Surveys, 1858

War Department Explorations and Surveys, 1858

While the conflict between the North and South was heating up, the US government made exploration of the American West--and its untapped wealth of resources--a top priority. Much of the land acquired in the Spanish American War was uncharted.  In 1858, the War Department sent Lieutenant Joseph Ives on a steamboat up the Colorado River. His job was to test the navigability of the river and to scout for potential railroad routes across the southwest.

Ives' ship, the Explorer, struck a rock in Black Canyon, so the party continued east by mule and on foot, as far as the Hopi Mesas. While producing detailed maps of the river's course through the Grand Canyon, the party failed to recognize the main Colorado River heading north through Marble Canyon to Lees Ferry and beyond. On this map, Ives shows the Little Colorado River as the only source of the Colorado River.  The Colorado River upstream through Utah and Colorado remained entirely unknown, until John Wesley Powell put that last piece of the puzzle in place in 1869.

Map courtesy of the Honorable Greg Hobbs Collection

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