Seeing Things Whole: The Essential John Wesley Powell / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $30.00
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 45%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (6) from $30.00   
  • New (4) from $41.23   
  • Used (2) from $30.00   


John Wesley Powell was an American original. He was the last of the nation's great continental explorers and the first of a new breed of public servant: part scientist, part social reformer, part institution builder. His work and life reveal an enduringly valuable way of thinking about land, water, and society as parts of an interconnected whole; he was America's first great bioregional thinker.

Seeing Things Whole presents John Wesley Powell in the full diversity of his achievements and interests, bringing together in a single volume writings ranging from his gripping account of exploring the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon to his views on the evolution of civilization, along with the seminal writings in which he sets forth his ideas on western settlement and the allocation and management of western resources.

The centerpiece of Seeing Things Whole is a series of selections from the famous 1878 Report on the Lands of the Arid Region and related magazine articles in which Powell further develops the themes of the report. In those, he recommends organizing the Arid Lands into watershed commonwealths governed by resident citizens whose interlocking interests create the checks and balances essential to wise stewardship of the land. This was the central focus of John Wesley Powell's bioregional vision, and it remains a model for governance that many westerners see as a viable solution to the resource management conflicts that continue to bedevil the region.

Throughout the collection, award-winning writer and historian William deBuys brilliantly sets the historical context for Powell's work. Section introductions and extensive descriptive notes take the reader through the evolution of John Wesley Powell's interests and ideas from his role as an officer in the Civil War through his critique of Social Darwinism and landmark categorization of Indian languages, to the climatic yet ultimately futile battles he fought to win adoption of his land-use proposals.

Seeing Things Whole presents the essence of the extraordinary legacy that John Wesley Powell has left to the American people, and to people everywhere who strive to reconcile the demands of society with the imperatives of the land.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

DeBuys, a historian, conservationist, and writer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, provides a general introduction to the extraordinary life and work of John Wesley Powell (1834-1902), and section introductions setting his work in context. Powell's writing, much of which has been out of print for decades, records his insightful thinking about the settlement and governance of the West and the allocation and conservation of its resources. In particular, this collection includes selections from the 1878 and related magazine articles. Color maps and some b&w photos augment the text. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
author of A River Running West - Donald Worster
"This is a superb selection of the most important writings of the great American explorer, scientist, and conservationist. Powell's name has often been evoked over the past century, but few people have had access to the full range of his vigorous prose. Now deBuys has given us an exceptionally good introduction to the man, his ideas, and his America."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559638739
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Series: Pioneers of Conservation Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

William deBuys is a historian, conservationist, and writer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His books include Enchantment and Exploitation (University of New Mexico Press, 1989), River of Traps (University of New Mexico Press, 1996), and Salt Dreams (University of New Mexico Press, 1999).

John Wesley Powell (1834 – 1902) was a US soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West, and director of major scientific and cultural institutions. He is famous for the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition, a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers that included the first known passage through the Grand Canyon.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Maps and Photographs
Introduction: Seeing Things Whole 1
Biographical Chronology 25
Pt. I Down the Colorado: Letters from the Wilderness Post
Selection 1 The Party Has Reached This Point in Safety 39
Selection 2 The Wreck of the No-Name 41
Pt. II Voyage into the Great Unknown
Selection 3 Through the Grand Canyon from the Little Colorado to the Virgin River 61
Pt. III Among the Natives of the Colorado Plateau
Selection 4 Camped with Shivwits and the Fate of the Separated Three 99
Selection 5 The Ancient Province of Tusayan 107
Pt. IV Report on the Lands of the Arid Region
Selection 6 Preface and Table of Contents 149
Selection 7 Physical Characteristics of the Arid Region 156
Selection 8 The Land System Needed for the Arid Region 185
Pt. V The Nation's Expert
Selection 9 Tree on Arid Lands 219
Selection 10 The Lesson of Conemaugh 226
Selection 11 Address to the Montana Constitutional Convention 235
Pt. VI Advice for the Century
Selection 12 The Irrigable Lands of the Arid Region 225
Selection 13 The Non-Irrigable Lands of the Arid Region 281
Selection 14 Institutions for the Arid Lands 299
Pt. VII A Philosopher for Humankind
Selection 15 From Barbarism to Civilization 325
Selection 16 Competition as a Factor in Human Evolution 340
Works by John Wesley Powell 359
Secondary Works Cited 369
Index 375
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)