Ferdinand V. Hayden, M.D. (1829-1887), who had already established a reputation as a master of reconnaissance in the Upper Missouri country, was placed in charge of the survey of Nebraska, for which only $5,000 was available. Hayden, 38, was a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio and Albany Medical College. Except during the Civil War years, Hayden had been enthusiastically exploring the northern Great Plains region since 1853 when James Hall, the New York State Geologist, had sent him and Fielding B. Meek west to study the geology and collect fossils. In 1856 and 1857, Hayden had accompanied expeditions led by Lieutenant G.K. Warren and in 1859, the expedition led by Captain W.F. Raynolds, both of the Topographical Engineers. The Hayden survey received additional appropriations in 1868 and 1869 for exploration in Wyoming and Colorado, and in 1869 was placed directly under the Secretary of the Interior. In 1870, Hayden presented to Congress a plan for the geological and geographical exploration of the Territories of the United States that looked forward to the gradual preparation of a series of geographical and geological maps of each of the territories on a uniform scale. With Congressional blessing the Hayden survey then became the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories under the Department of the Interior.
Early in his career, he earned the name ""he who picks up rocks running"" by the Sioux, who probably considered him crazy, but harmless. His work laid the foundation for the U. S. Geologic Survey and he was instrumental in the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Hayden lobbied heavily to become the first director of the U. S. Geologic Survey, but lost in a power struggle that involved O. C. Marsh. (Hayden had earned Marsh's wrath largely because he had enlisted Marsh's arch rival, E. D. Cope, for his survey of the Western Territories.)
In early June 1869, Lieutenant Wheeler received orders to organize and equip a party to make a thorough and careful reconnaissance of the country south and east of White Pine, Nevada, as far as the head of navigation on the Colorado, to obtain data for a military map and to survey the possibility of a wagon road and select sites for military posts. In 1871, the Engineers sent Lt. Wheeler to explore and map the area south of the Central Pacific Railroad in eastern Nevada and Arizona.
On his return from the 1871 expedition, Wheeler, convinced that the day of the pathfinder had ended, proposed a plan for mapping the United States west of the 100th meridian on a scale of 8 miles to the inch, expected to cost $2.5 million and take 15 years. Congress authorized the program on June 10, 1872, the day on which funds were appropriated for completion of the Powell survey. Hayden that year was given $75,000 for his Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories.
Inevitably, conflicts developed between the Hayden survey, mapping the Territories of the United States, and the Wheeler survey, mapping the areas west of the 100th meridian. Deterioration of the economy led to another consideration of the problem of mapping the West in 1878. The King survey had by this time completed its reports, but the Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler surveys were still in the field. The Hayden Survey did get $100,000 to pay bills incurred by re-labelling expenses. But the legislation also provided that the Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler surveys be discontinued as of June 30, 1879.