Exploring Desert Stone

John N. Macomb's 1859 Expedition to the Canyonlands of the Colorado

by Steven K. Madsen

"Madsen's work provides the first detailed investigation of the 1859 Macomb Expedition into western Colorado and the canyon country of Utah. Beyond his first-rate analysis, Madsen presents the most important elements of the venture's documentary record, making this fascinating study and significant contribution to our understanding of the Southwest also a valuable resource for anyone who loves the American West."
—Will Bagley


The confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, now in Canyonlands National Park, near popular tourist destination Moab, still cannot be reached or viewed easily. Much of the surrounding region remained remote and rarely visited for decades after settlement of other parts of the West. The first U.S. government expedition to explore the canyon country and the Four Corners area was led by John Macomb of the army's topographical engineers.

The soldiers and scientists followed in part the Old Spanish Trail, whose location they documented and verified. Seeking to find the confluence of the Colorado and the Green and looking for alternative routes into Utah, which was of particular interest in the wake of the Utah War, they produced a substantial documentary record, most of which is published for the first time in this volume. Theirs is also the first detailed map of the region, and it is published in Exploring Desert Stone, as well.


New Mexico Historical Review (pdf) Volume 86, Number 4 / 2011 / Michael L. Tate, Univeristy of Nebraska at Omaha
Glenwood Gazette Review / David Remley, April, 2010
Midwest Book Review, March, 2010
The Association for Mormon Letters, March 6, 2010 / J. Sherman Feher
Book News Inc., Summer 2010
Center for Colorado & the West, July 30, 2010 / Christopher J. J. Thiry, Colorado School of Mines

Chosen for Top Pick Southwest Books of the Year, Best Reading of 2010

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Steven K. Madsen is a library media educational technology specialist for the Granite School District in Utah.

Imprint: Utah State University Press

Book Details

  • Hardcover Price: $38.95
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-87421-707-0
  • Ebook Price: $30.95
  • EISBN: 978-0-87421-708-7
  • Publication Year: 2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Illustrations: illustrations, photos, maps
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by Steven K. Madsen
  • ECommerce Code: 978-0-87421-707-0
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission