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4 / Historical Explorations ROBERT c. EULER While the credit for all early exploration of the Grand Canyon must be given to American Indians, they of course left no written record of their exploits. The first documentary accounts of the Grand Canyon were penned by the earliest Europeans to visit the region in the year 1540. The explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado had ridden from Mexico at the head of a great entourage of Spaniards and Indians. In the summer of 1540, while at the New Mexico pueblo of Zuni, he heard about the Hopi to the west and dispatched one of his lieutenants, Pedro de Tovar, to investigate. Tovar was the first white man to visit the Hopi, and he returned to tell Coronado about a great river the Hopi had told him lay farther west. Coronado sent another of his officers, Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, back to Hopi where he procured guides. According to the official chronicler for the Coronado expedition, Cardenas journeyed twenty days westerly from the Hopi towns before seeing the Grand Canyon, thus becoming the first European to do so. We don't know exactly where the Spaniards were, but probably they arrived at the Canyon's rim Robert C. Euler 62 somewhere in the vicinity of Desert View. They spent the better part of three days trying to descend into the Canyon, which they noted was three to four leagues (eight to ten miles) wide. After getting no more than a third of the way down, they gave up. Interestingly, their Hopi guides, undoubtedly familiar with the trails into the gorge, refrained from revealing their locations to Cardenas. These sixteenth-century Spaniards were interested only in gold (to bolster a sagging economy at home) and in converts to Christianity. Finding neither at the Grand Canyon, the small expedition returned to Coronado and the main party at Zuni. If our historical records are accurate, Europeans did not again visit the Canyon until 1776. While Americans along the eastern seaboard prepared to declare their independence from Great Britain, two Spanish expeditions, both with different purposes , were abroad in the Grand Canyon country. In the summer of that year, the Franciscan missionary Francisco Tomas Garces traveled by mule from southern Arizona to the missions in California and then back into northern Arizona. He heard about the Walapai and Havasupai and on an intended journey to Zuni decided to visit them. Alone except for some Hopi guides, Garces spent a number of days journeying through the country of the Walapai and then became the first European of record to visit the Havasupai in their Grand Canyon home. From Supai he rode along the South Rim of the Canyon to the Hopi towns, where he arrived on July 4, 1776. Meeting an unfriendly reception there, he retraced his entire route back into Havasu Canyon and returned to his mission of San Xavier del Bac near Tucson late in the summer. In that same year, two other Franciscan priests, Silvestre velez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Dominguez, with a Facing page 61: The Havasupai village deep in the Grand Canyon Historical Explorations 63 small escort of soldiers, rode north from Santa Fe searching for an easy route to California. At Utah Lake south of Salt Lake City, with winter approaching, they decided to turn south and entered the Grand Canyon region along the Arizona-Utah border in the territory of the Southern Paiute. Warned of the impassability of the Canyon, the party turned east without having seen its rims. They crossed the Colorado River at a ford now submerged beneath the waters behind Glen Canyon Dam and returned to Santa Fe by way of the Hopi villages. This was the end of Spanish exploration of the Grand Canyon area. Their ventures in North America concluded in 1821 when Mexico achieved its independence, and the Mexicans had concerns closer to home than the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon region became part of the United States after the Mexican War of 1848, but Anglo-American fur trappers had already passed through the area. Most of these-Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, Antoine Leroux, and Bill Williams, to name some-left few records. However, in 1826, James Ohio Pattie claimed to have traveled along or near the South Rim of the Canyon after hunting for beaver along the lower Colorado River. Pattie's journal is replete with exaggerations, however, and there is no compelling evidence that he actually saw the great gorge. After the United...


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