National Geographic : 1971 Jul
the Colorado's Cataract Canyon on a raft. Everywhere I crossed the paths of earlier travelers-of padres and muleteers along the Old Spanish Trail, of Mormon missionaries and ranchers, of mountain men and explorers. I crossed the trail of Capt. John N. Ma comb, who in 1859 viewed the confluence of the rivers from a lofty overlook, but saw no way to descend into their deep-shadowed gorges. "I cannot conceive of a more worth less and impractical region," he said. A dec ade later one-armed Maj. John Wesley Powell solved the descent problem by boating down the Green. At the confluence he scaled a 1,200 foot butte and gazed out on a rock world, his 74 journal records, of "ten thousand strangely carved forms ... and beyond them mountains blending with the clouds." I crossed paths with Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch, who robbed turn-of-the-century trains and banks with blasting powder and good humor, and with those wild uranium hunters of just 18 years ago, who filed claims that totaled three times the area of San Juan County, in which most of Canyonlands lies. But this Maze trip was special. We climbed over sandy hillocks and found ourselves in cactus gardens abloom in lavenders, limes, and creams. Stone shapes like stetsons, boots, and Indian heads loomed on our skyline.