Powell 150: Retracing the Colorado River’s Ultimate Expedition

“Following in Powell’s footsteps, we are rafting 1,000 miles from Wyoming to Nevada,” narrates filmmaker Ben Kraushaar in the trailer for Powell 150.  Created by Kraushaar and Cody Perry, the film will document a 72-day river journey through the Colorado River Basin, which retraced the route of Western explorer John Wesley Powell.

With sweeping images of canyon scenery and close-ups of pounding whitewater, one goal of the film is to share the exhilaration of such a trip. As rower Jessica Flock describes in the trailer, “The adrenaline high that you get is unexplainable, and then it sticks with you for days.”

Meanwhile, another goal of Powell 150 is to raise awareness of the many issues affecting the region’s inhabitants in the 21st century.

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Powell 150 - ben kraushaar
Ben Kraushaar

“The river is over allocated,” explained Kraushaar by email. “Climate change is posed to reduce Colorado River Basin flows by 20 percent by 2050. And Basin tribes, despite being legally entitled to 20 percent of the Basin’s water, are still fighting for an equitable future.”

Capturing the impressive footage was made even harder by the daily challenges faced by the expedition. Cameras had to be charged by solar power and protected from sand and water damage. One near upset occurred in Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River, which was running high at 54,000 cfs when the expedition arrived on July 4, 2019.

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“Our lead boat and most experienced oarsman flipped early in the run,” said Kraushaar, describing a scene shown at the end of the trailer. “We were determined to rescue our comrades and we had no choice but to keep powering downriver. Our boat [Kraushaar and Perry], packed full of expensive and sensitive electronics, nearly flipped in a feature called Little Niagara. At the end of the day, [the group] lost five oars, but no one drowned. We were so lucky.”

Powell 150 is scheduled to premiere by early 2021, and the team is currently fundraising to cover post-production costs.

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