The National Park Service explains the phenomenon of Many Lost Ways with some blah blah blah about topography and watersheds and how people who can’t find their way instinctively follow water downhill, and so for 10,000 years those who are lost have been turning up here.
It makes sense – the hills above the Benjamin-Henry River do form something of a giant natural funnel – but that’s overly simple for what happens here. It doesn’t explain the spiritual wayfinding that gives the park its name.
The Native lore is rich with tales of great chiefs who found direction in these cliffs, young lovers who found each other along the river, fathers and sons who found understanding under these starry skies.
Many lost ways.
There’s something here – call it a True North of the Soul – that helps them get found.
It’s still happening today.
Not sure if you should marry him? Drag him around Many Lost Ways for a week and you’ll know.
Not sure what to do with your life? Come to Many Lost Ways and the answer will go home with you.
Year after year, new stories of people who arrived with a vexing problem and left with clarity and peace. The locals talk it up with the tourists:
“Did you hear about this couple?”
“Did you hear about that guy?”
“Did you hear about the family?”
Many lost ways. Found.
Of course the most famous lost people to get found here are Lieutenants Benjamin and Henry. They deserted John Wesley Powell just before he fell 1,800 feet down the Colorado River and landed fortuitously in the Grand Canyon. Had they stuck with him they might have survived to experience that glorious discovery, but instead they wandered around the Colorado Plateau for some weeks before instinctively following water downhill into what is now Many Lost Ways National Park.
They washed up starving, broken and in despair on the bank of the river that now bears their names. They were taken in by the indigenous people and after a good meal and some rest realized they’d discovered a fertile little valley on a navigable river.
Stick that in your rapids and raft it, Powell.
The FCFL still follows the lucrative trade route they opened, anchored by Salvation Point.
Speaking of Salvation Point, no one’s sure if it was Benjamin or Henry who put quill to parchment, but the line from their log is famous here:
“We need not return as condemned deserters. We need not return as failed expeditioners. Today we have redeemed ourselves. Today we have reached our salvation point.”
So the name doesn’t have a particularly religious provenance, and that’s disappointing to some visitors. There are more bars than churches here.
Now you know.