The Old Trails Museum will present our 2022 Spring History Highlight online through the Virtual AZ Speaks program from Arizona Humanities. On Saturday, April 23, at 2 pm, OTM will host Gregory McNamee’s presentation of Desert Rats, River Runners, and Canyon Crawlers: Four Arizona Explorers. Register for the virtual program here.

Illustrated with historical photographs, maps, and other artwork, McNamee will look back on the accomplishments of four explorers, each of whom shaped our understanding of this wild, sometimes challenging place called Arizona. Francisco Garcés, a Franciscan friar, arrived in what is now Arizona in 1768. Assigned to the church at San Xavier del Bac south of present-day Tucson, he traveled widely throughout Arizona and California, charting overland routes that later travelers would follow.

Near where Garcés would meet his death in 1781, an American soldier named Joseph Christmas Ives embarked on an arduous expedition up the Colorado River, one of the first Americans to see what he called the Big Canyon. A dozen years later, the river-running explorer John Wesley Powell would name it the Grand Canyon, and a hundred years after that a writer named Edward Abbey would explore the canyon country, writing classic books such as Desert Solitaire and Black Sun.

McNamee is a writer, editor, photographer, and publisher. He is the author or title-page editor of more than forty books and more than 7,500 periodical pieces, including articles, news features, essays, reviews, interviews, editorials, poems, and short stories in such venues as Science, The Washington Post, Outside, Smithsonian, AARP, and He is a contributing editor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Kirkus Reviews, the editor of the arts and culture magazine Zócalo, publisher of Polytropos Press, and operator of Sonora Wordworks Editorial and Publishing Services. McNamee is also a research associate at the Southwest Center of the University of Arizona.

OTM’s 2022 Spring History Highlight is made possible by Arizona Humanities, and we are grateful to them for giving us the opportunity to offer this program in a safe and engaging way.