By Virginia McConnell Simmons
By Virginia McConnell Simmons

John Wesley Powell famously rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

In his shadow is the figure of James White, who may have preceded Powell down the river. Virginia McConnell Simmons has clearly taken pleasure in illuminating the careers of White and Charles Baker, who led the prospecting expedition that ended with White possibly running the river. By situating the party of Baker in the context of emigrants to the West rather than as purposeful explorers, Simmons broadens the scope of the work. Her efforts to cull fact from the various versions of White’s claim demonstrate the challenges of historical research. These men’s stories are remarkable on their own, but the care Simmons has taken to critically craft their history is what makes Drifting West a pleasure to read.

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