History of Crossing of the Fathers, Utah
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This famous crossing, now several hundred feet under the waters of Lake Powell, provided a crossing of the Colorado River for the Domínguez and Escalante Party in November of 1776. The indians called it Ute Ford and the Spaniards called it El Vado de los Padres. Padre Bay of Lake Powell was named in honor of the Fathers (Padres). Those heading north out of Wahweap marina by boat, cross this spot near the Padre Butte.

The party of ten men led by two Spanish priests, Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante and his superior Francisco Atanasio Domínguez, from Santa Fe were en route home after an unsucessfull attempt to find an overland trail to Monterey, California and to seek expansion of missionary work. Without the help of guides and winter closing in, they were forced tolive off the land. In order to survive they searched out wild seeds, piñon nuts, prickley pear cactus and even consumed some of their own pack horses.

Their first attempt to cross the River at Lees Ferry, 35 miles south in Arizona, failed. They finally arrived at Padre Creek on November 7 where they cut steps into the sandstone to provide footing for themselves and their animals in order to gain access to the wide but at this point shallow river and cross.

The original purposes were never achieved, although they maped and named many features of the Four Corners area. The town of Escalante, Utah and the Escalante River derive their name from Father Escalante.

See: John W. Van Cott, Utah Place Names; American Park Network, The Crossing of the Fathers; Desert USA, The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition.

G. William Wiersdorf

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