Colorado Native Plant Society announces April lecture


    By Amanda Kuenzi
    Mountain Studies Institute

    “Before Powell? A descent of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on a tule reed raft” will be presented via Zoom by Peter M. Brown and Tom Martin on Tuesday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m.

    In 1869, John Wesley Powell and his crew made the first documented descent of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. But was it really the first? Both the Navajo and Hopi have legends of people traveling through the canyon before Powell. Even more intriguing is that Lower Colorado River peoples have known how to raft the river for hundreds or even thousands of years using boats made out of common tule (schoenoplectus acutus), a surprisingly buoyant giant sedge that is found throughout the Colorado River basin. 

    But could a tule raft survive a descent through the Grand Canyon? That was the question we set out to answer on a raft trip through the canyon that launched from Lees Ferry last Dec. 30. We built a very simple raft from three 10-foot long bundles of tule, added a seat for comfort and then set off in the company of six inflatable rafts and a wooden dory for a 30-day float trip to Pearce Ferry, 280 river miles down river. The raft ran every mile and every rapid, and by the end of the trip was still as buoyant, structurally intact and as easy to paddle as the day it was launched. The trip proved that a tule reed raft was certainly robust and capable enough to have made the trip sometime in the last several thousand years.

    This is the story of that trip. 

    Register in advance for this meeting at

     After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Please note the passcode will be required for entry.

    This is presented by the Colorado Native Plant Society Southwest Chapter.