Q&A: Historical Columnist Bob Silbernagel on His New ‘Colorado Plateau’ Book

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Courtesy Arcadia Publishing and The History Press

Robert Silbernagel, an award-winning journalist who served as the editorial page editor for The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction for 19 years, retired in 2014, but continues to write a regional history column for the newspaper. His passion for local history has led him to write books on the region, and his third, “Historic Adventures on the Colorado Plateau,” released May 28, features accounts of Native Americans, miners, ranchers and others as they explore the West.

The Colorado Plateau is home to nearly 30 national parks, monuments and recreational areas, and features unique geology, rock formations, rivers and scenic canyons that make the region beautiful—but also made early exploration difficult.

Where does your fascination with history come from?
“That’s a good question—I don’t know. I guess ever since I was a youngster growing up in Wisconsin, I’ve been fascinated with the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the battles with Indians and I also was fascinated with the West, which was what led me to move out here. So I guess I’ve always been interested in the people that came before us.”

How did you do your research? Where did you get all the information for the book?
“I’m always doing different research for my columns; a lot comes from the museum here in Grand Junction and from museums in Utah and other parts of Colorado. I do a lot of looking at old newspapers online and read a lot of books that involve things like river-rafting or John Wesley Powell. A lot of people point me in different directions; people will say, ‘You should do an article on this,’ and they’ll tell me a place to get started and then I follow up with other research.”

How has your work as a journalist influenced this book?
“If I hadn’t had the background in journalism, I don’t think I would have been as good at research as I believe I am. My whole career has led me to figure out how to look someplace else for information if you get stymied. Journalism is also a great way to improve your writing skills.”

What was the most interesting tidbit of information you came across, or the most interesting person you discovered while researching this book?
“I think the most interesting information was about the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition of Mormons in Utah. I got to talk to descendants of people who were involved in it and read some personal diary information about it what they went through was just fascinating.”

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?
“First of all, I think a good writer should be a good storyteller, so I hope I tell good stories here that people will enjoy and be entertained by. I hope they’ll also learn some things they didn’t know about this region.”

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