On the morning of September 17, 1988 several state, county, and city politicians gathered at the future site of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum. Together, with a small crowd of local community members, they held a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of what was designed to be a nationally relevant and culturally significant historical museum. At the ceremony, Green River’s mayor gave an impassioned speech on the city’s expectations for the new building, local community members performed the national anthem, and the event featured a melon bust to coronate the construction of what everyone hoped would be an economic boon to the local economy. The museum was an enormous undertaking, something that the community had been working towards for quite some time, and it was finally coming to fruition.
As early as 1987, members of the Green River community began reaching out to museum professionals, business owners, and politicians throughout Utah in an effort to gather information and support for the construction of a new museum facility that would highlight the historical and cultural significance of the Green and Colorado Rivers on the communities of southeastern Utah. Support came from senators, congressmen, local business owners, and even Robert Redford (a letter that must have caused quite a stir on the day that it showed up in the office!)