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Penguin: Adult Hardcover & Trade Paperback Summer 2019

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The Promise of the Grand Canyon
John Wesley Powell's Perilous Journey and His Vision for the American West
By (author): John F. Ross
9780143128953 Paperback, Trade English General Trade HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries May 07, 2019
$24.00 CAD
Active 5.45 x 8.43 x 0.85 in 416 pages 16-PAGE B/W INSERT (ON TEXT STOCK); 3-4 B/W MAPS Penguin Books
A timely, thrilling account of a man who, as an explorer, dared to lead the first successful expedition down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon—and, as an American visionary, waged a bitterly-contested campaign for environmental sustainability in the American West.

When John Wesley Powell became the first person to navigate the entire Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon, he completed what Lewis and Clark had begun nearly 70 years earlier—the final exploration of continental America. The son of an abolitionist preacher, a Civil War hero (who lost an arm at Shiloh), and a passionate naturalist and geologist, in 1869 Powell tackled the vast and dangerous gorge carved by the Colorado River and known today (thanks to Powell) as the Grand Canyon.

With The Promise of the Grand Canyon, John Ross recreates Powell’s expedition in all its glory and terror, but his second (unheralded) career as a scientist, bureaucrat, and land-management pioneer concerns us today. Powell was the first to ask: how should the development of the west be shaped? How much could the land support? What was the role of the government and private industry in all of this? He began a national conversation about sustainable development when most everyone else still looked upon land as an inexhaustible resource. Though he supported irrigation and dams, his prescient warnings forecast the 1930s dustbowl and the growing water scarcities of today. Practical, yet visionary, Powell didn’t have all the answers, but was first to ask the right questions.

Story Locale: The American West; The Grand Canyon

ANNIVERSARY TIMING: The Penguin edition is to be published on the 150th anniversary of Powell’s 1869 expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers and through the Grand Canyon.

HARDCOVER SUCCESS: The book has been positively reviewed by environmental and nature publications such as Nature and Sierra Magazine.

TRAVEL READERS: Five million people visit the Grand Canyon National Park and 30,000 people raft the Colorado each year, following in Powell’s footsteps.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS/CONSERVATIONISTS: The politics of water scarcity in the west are as fraught as ever—here is where the debate started.

TIMELY TAKE ON POPULAR STORY: Ed Dolnick’s successful Down the Great Unknown (2001) focused largely on the boat journey, not Powell’s subsequent career as explorer, topographer, and policy maker.

John Ross is a former editor of American Heritage and an adventure writer with extensive whitewater experience. His previous books are Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed and War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America’s First Frontier, which won the Fort Ticonderoga Award for Contributions to American History.

Author Residence: Bethesda MD

Marketing: Social media and online promotion

Academic marketing and Library promotions



Publicity: New in paperback media attention

Tie into 150th anniversary of Powell’s Colorado River trip

Praise for The Promise of the Grand Canyon:

“Ross tells Powell’s story powerfully, sprinkled with quotes from the explorer-geologist’s diary and a feeling of dramatic suspense—will he survive?—even though we know the outcome.”—The Washington Post

“A convincing case for Powell’s legacy as a pioneering conservationist who maintained, ahead of his time and to no avail, that future settlement of the West must take into account the region’s essential aridity.”--The Wall Street Journal

“A bold study of an eco-visionary at a watershed moment in US history.”--Nature

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