The purpose of Fathers Dominguez and Escalante's
journey through the region in 1776 was to find a route to
Spanish missions in Monterey. During the first 2 1/2 weeks of
the expedition, the Fathers' route took them to the
northwest, ever closer to their objective. After camping
near the town of Egnar, however, the expedition turned
northeast and for two weeks followed a new course which
took them away from their objective. Why did they turn
east? It was a momentuous decision, for it cost them
precious time and contributed to their failure to reach
Monterey. How different history might have been had they
Several factors played a role in the decision to turn east.
Perhaps most important was the party's difficulties in the
Dolores Canyon. Several days were lost in an attempt to
travel through this box canyon. The party eventually turned
back because of the extreme difficulty of the route.
This experience impressed on the explorers the need for
an Indian guide. Their lack of knowledge of the area could,
they knew, cause them other difficulties as well.
Increasingly they were having trouble finding enough water
for the men and horses. Shortage of food was also
becoming a concern.
Though they knew virtually nothing of the region to the
west, their Spanish guide was familiar with the territory to
the east as far north as the Gunnison River. He had
traveled with Rivera, a well known Spanish explorer,
eleven years earlier into this area. Spanish traders had
also visited the area and had returned with information.
The Fathers, therefor, knew of a tribe of Sabuagana Utes
to their east and forged to retain one of them as a guide.
The expedition failed to reach Monterey. The advance of
winter and other difficulties forced them to return to Santa
Fe. It is interesting to speculate how the map of North
America might now look had Dominguez and Escalante
Erected August 15, 1976, through the joint efforts of the Colorado
Centennial-Bicentennial Commission and the town of Dove Creek.