John Wesley Powell River Museum

Haley Ann Rodgers
  • Weather: Isolated Showers And Thunderstorms, 98F

Few Western trailblazers are more famous than the one-armed boatman, John Wesley Powell. Here in Green River, the John Wesley Powell River History Museum pays homage to Powell, and teaches you about his expeditions, the history of the West’s exploration, and the geography of the area. The museum was first built in 1990, and continues to attract river rats and history buffs alike. A stop by the John Wesley Powell River History Museum not only gives you a better understanding about the history of the area and its rivers, but also, a deep appreciation for those who were the first to explore it.

At some point on this trip, you'll think, you simply must get on these rivers (fear not: there are flatwater options for the timid and white water options for the adventurous).

Start your tour in the 170-seat theater and watch the award-winning The Great Unknown, a short film about Powell’s 1869 expedition on the Green and Colorado rivers, which involved the first known passage by Europeans through the Grand Canyon. At the time of this treacherous, three-month, 1,000-mile expedition, this area was of the last to be mapped in America.

After the film, take some time to explore the exhibits in the only museum in the United States solely dedicated to river history. You’ll see sculptures depicting Powell’s two expeditions, and walk through a hall featuring boats built to run rapids since Powell’s landmark 1869 river trip.

In addition, walk through the River Runners Hall of Fame, that celebrates 15 other explorers who contributed to America’s westward expansion via waterways. Continue on to find informative exhibits on the geology of rivers, interpretive maps of the area, dozens of archival photos, and even a dinosaur exhibit.

Outside the museum, there is a series of panels overlooking the Green River, that describe local Green River history. The outdoor pavilion is also an exceptional place for a picnic, or to take in views of the river and the area’s buttes and mesas. Desolation Canyon, the Gates of Lodore, the San Juan River, and even the Grand Canyon are all connected to the Green River. There’s certainly something special about the life-giving substance of water in the desert, but still more fascinating is how the early pioneers charted the unknown West by traveling rivers like the Green and Colorado.

The museum is located at 1765 E. Main Street, Green River, Utah. Entrance to the museum is free for children under five, $2 for ages 5–12, $6 for adults, $15 for families, and $40 for a group. The museum is open year-round. Summer hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Winter hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

GPS Coordinates: 38.993648, -110.141193
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