Posts Tagged ‘James Kay’

Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection By Annette McGivney With James Kay

September 25th, 2013

Book Review on the Biggest Conservation Story of All Time and New Solutions… Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney with Photographs by James Kay and Foreword by Bill McKibben (Braided River, 2009)

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

Resurrection Book Cover, Lake Powell at Hite Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, Photograph copyright 2007 James Kay.

In the mid 1950s, David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, led a coalition of conservation groups in an effort to permanently banish industrial development from national park lands. The primary battle defending the sanctity of the national park system was over two dams proposed inside Dinosaur National Monument. The proposed dams in Dinosaur would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument on the Yampa and Green Rivers.

David Brower in Congressional testimony used 9th Grade math to prove that if Glen Canyon Dam were higher, it could hold back and store more water than both proposed dams in Dinosaur. Congress removed the two dams in Dinosaur National Monument from the Colorado River Compact and passed the bill approving the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Having never seen Glen Canyon, David Brower and many others did not know the extent or nature of the sacrifice made to protect the national park system. Looking back, especially after he floated through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River for the first time in 1958, David Brower mused that he and the coalition might have pushed on and possibly succeeded in saving Glen Canyon. (For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

Ironically, before World War II, Glen Canyon had been part of a proposed national park that would have encompassed more than two million acres spread across much of Southeastern Utah including most of what are now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park and all of Glen Canyon. The attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted these discussions and turned the attention of Congress to preparations for war.

Drought, Distortions, Glen Canyon Dam And A New Dream Of The West

The Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Glen Canyon Dam in 1964, but “Lake” Powell did not reach full capacity until 1980. The reservoir water level ebbed and flowed until the last time it was full in 1996, then drew down over 100 feet by 2003 and has remained nearly half empty or more than half empty ever since. It turns out that the Colorado River flow calculations that justified the building of Glen Canyon Dam in the first place were exaggerated, as were the rainfall estimates on which expansion and development interests based the entire settlement of the Western US plains and Southwestern desert. Tree ring studies and other climate measures show that the 20th Century was one of the wettest ever in the Western US. Today’s much lower rainfall and river flow rates are more characteristic of the region, though big dam proponents are officially calling the present conditions a drought. Nonetheless, scientists project that “Lake” Powell may never be full again. Odds are that both “Lake” Mead and “Lake” Powell will both remain as they are now, roughly half full or less for the foreseeable future.

Annette McGivney, in Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West, tells the story of the loss of Glen Canyon, but more importantly the rebirth of life in the side canyons since the reservoir has subsided. Glen Canyon today is the poster child for watershed recovery for both Glen and Grand Canyon, as well as for the resilience of nature in general. McGivney’s easy-flowing text accompanies the photography of James Kay, who for more than three decades has photographed the Colorado Plateau, the seismically uplifted high desert that the Colorado River cuts through in Utah and Arizona. James Kay knows this land and these canyons. His sensitive, artistic eye finds for us the devastation that was, and the haunting, unparalleled paradise that is Glen Canyon.

McGivney and Kay explored many of the tributary canyons together for this project, either by boat, by kayak, but most often on foot, backpacking from the reservoir up canyon; or from the rims of the sandstone tablelands above, down into narrow, winding passages and rock alcoves. These slot canyons, often hundreds of feet tall and in places only a few feet wide, are already verdant with newly rooted cottonwoods, willows, and grasses, as well as teaming with wildlife just as they had been for centuries before everything drowned under the full reservoir.

Annette McGivney quotes Richard Ingebretsen, co-founder with David Brower of Glen Canyon Institute, who asked, “Why keep two reservoirs half empty?” Glen Canyon Institute, founded for the ultimate purpose of reclaiming Glen Canyon and turning it into a national park, is working on a current campaign called, “Fill Mead First.” The idea is to keep “Lake” Mead full because it supplies many cities of the Southwest with water and generates their electricity. If “Lake” Powell were then drawn down, Glen Canyon could be restored and even made into a national park. Many who saw Glen Canyon before the reservoir say that it rivaled the Grand Canyon in beauty.

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

James Kay’s photographs in Resurrection certainly provide the proof of this claim to canyon beauty. Traveling by Kayak, powerboat and most often on foot, Kay has shown us as never before, the side canyons and back alcoves of Glen Canyon reborn. His style is both effectively documentary, yet artistically strong. Kay’s experience in the canyons of the Southwest has given him not just an eye for form; he has an eye for gracefully capturing the forms of canyons. His understanding of natural light and how to use it to best portray the curves, edges, near and far, contrasts, shadows and indirect illumination of layers on layers of weather-sculpted sandstone.

Some of Kay’s compositions are simple. For example, one photograph in Resurrection depicts a massive wall of rock that juts out into “Lake” Powell like the prow of a ship. The vantage point of the image is from a boat close to water level. At the bottom of the wall that is about 200 feet tall, we see a small boat dwarfed by the immensity of stone above. The photograph is a work of beauty, while at the same time it accomplishes the practical task of dramatizing just how far the reservoir has receded from the high water line marked by a gray-tan mud stain, or “bathtub ring,” as people call it. The top half of the cliff is the beautiful red-brown of native rock, while the bottom half of the cliff is coated with ugly mud stain.

Other images give us the haunting, far away longing of luminous reflections or newly sprouted grasses, shrubs, cottonwoods and other lush greenery. Some photographs are purposely ugly, some are otherworldly and nearly abstract, while still others incorporate hikers in soaring walled narrows or show us intimate rushing water. If you love the desert and canyons, this is a book and a place different. Yet despite how unusual this place is, those who see it as nothing more than a holding tank, a cash register or a recreation area for motorized tourism, have seemingly never stopped to see it the way James Kay shares it.

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

Despite US Bureau of Reclamation and pro-development rhetoric, the only two justifiable reasons Glen Canyon Dam was ever necessary, and remotely remains necessary, were the Politics surrounding the agreement between the seven Western states that share the water; and the Income from recreation on “Lake” Powell. The viability of Hydropower generation has nearly run out with low water levels often not providing enough gravity water drop to turn the turbines at sufficient speed. Besides, the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act no longer allows the fluctuation of water levels caused by increased dam releases during peak power usage.

Politically in relation to water use, the three Upper Colorado River Basin states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, for good reason mistrust the four lower basin states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The lower basin states have all along taken more than their share of Colorado River water. Glen Canyon Dam provides a physical obstruction by which the upper states can regulate the flow to the lower states and keep them from taking more than their allotment, if and when the upper states catch up with the lower states in their land development and thirst for water.

Even though the desert does not inherently provide the water to support the building of industry and commercial buildings, suburbs, golf courses, and abundant water features, the seven Western states of the Colorado River system have been in a race to develop as fast as they can to be sure they obtain as much Colorado River water as possible in relation to the neighboring states. John Wesley Powell, whom the reservoir was named after, warned against developing the West beyond its water capacity. He recommended a number of water saving approaches that have been implemented by a few wise communities, but ignored by most.

Indeed, McGivney reminds us that the cities of the desert tend to flaunt the image of the manufactured oasis. The Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2005 adopted the slogan, “The Desert is a Myth.” A July hike in any direction beyond the edge of a Phoenix suburb like Anthem, for instance, and it becomes readily apparent that the desert is real and it is the lush golf courses that perhaps are already, or soon will be a mirage. Land development in the West has achieved similar temporary high profits and blindness to long-term consequences as recent Wall Street derivative speculation and the banking system near meltdown.

Nonetheless, it is less the cities that would run dry without “Lake” Powell than the farming of water-intensive crops like alfalfa, hay and cotton, grown not to supply market demand, but to take advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks. Dams are portrayed as symbolizing progress and economic growth, but special interests are the primary benefactors. In Utah, for example, mining, ranching and industrial agriculture represent less than 3% of the economy, but they use 85% of Utah’s water. Even though industrial agriculture comprises a decreasing portion of the Western economy, the industry is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns. Thus, even though dam projects, expanded water pipelines and other water infrastructure will not sustain society long-term, these outdated public works continue to garner support of those in political power.

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. James Kay used this photograph side-by-side with his own like this in the book Resurrection too.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point, with the Cathedral almost fully recovered as only a few feet of water were left in the bottom.

The motorized brand of tourism that thrived on “Lake” Powell in the 1980s and 1990s, has generated significant income for concessionaires and boat operators, who also provide proportionally large support to politicians and boost the local economy. In 1992, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hosted a record 3.5 million visitors, nearly as many at this peak as visited the Grand Canyon. Yet today with the shrinkage of the “lake” area, the closure of two out of five of the marinas and high gasoline prices area hotel stays and other tourism has dropped by 40 percent. Nearby national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion each increased visitation in the last decade. Indeed, the economy is playing a major role in the dying of motorized tourism nearly everywhere. Less disposable income, especially among the upper-middle class and upper class has led to less motorized lake recreation. In the past many high earning tourists have spent discretionary money on Jet Skis, Houseboat shares and other expensive water toys, but in the last 10 years public lands hiking and camping has grown, while motor boating has decreased significantly. Local jobs in Page, Arizona and elsewhere around “Lake” Powell have depended almost entirely on motor tourism. Most local people, including the Native Americans in the area, want to prolong a dying industry to maintain their livelihoods. While denying that their way of life is dying, they are likely missing the opportunities and shift in perspective that could bring them a far more sustainable, Earth-friendly and perhaps most importantly, a more permanent security.

McGivney’s “Step-by-step guide to saving Glen Canyon and then, perhaps the world” offers the kind of forward thinking solutions that thought leaders have begun to discuss in recent years. While these innovative resolutions will become requirements, rather than options in the near future, as a civilization we have a big leap to negotiate before we are ready to leave our self-serving short-term approaches behind and move into a mindset that is more conducive to sustaining our society and all life on Earth. This is perhaps the text’s only flaw, or perhaps it is more of a challenge: the leap from where our watershed management and environmental stewardship are now to where they need to be to sustain life in the Southwest and on Earth long range may be too big. Are we up to the task? Perhaps an even better question is: can we learn to cooperate with, listen to, find new ways to meet the needs of and educate those who have a vested interest in business as it has been for far too long?

For more on Glen Canyon and Philip Hyde’s photography of the lost paradise see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” or “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 3

December 17th, 2010
Landscape Photography Blogger’s 100th Blog Post started a short three part series on Glen Canyon by Philip Hyde…

A Lament for Glen Canyon by Philip Hyde, Part 3

Continued from the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament by Philip Hyde 2.”

Originally published in The Living Wilderness magazine September 1980

‘Lake’ Powell’s Coyote Gulch Invasion Brings a Flood of Painful Memories

By Contributing Editor Philip Hyde

Escalante River Near Willow Canyon, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1964 by Philip Hyde.

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

I was introduced to the canyon country in 1951 as the controversy over the Upper Colorado River Storage Project was warming. I was commissioned by the Sierra Club to find out what was in Dinosaur, and bring back photographs of it. On the way home, I had glimpses of other parts of the canyon country: following the wheel tracks of uranium trucks on the then primitive road through Monument Valley, and a stop at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I remember well the landscape shock that the early geologist Dutton said comes to those from well watered regions when they first confront the Plateau Province. The heat, haze and dryness that dulled my mind, fogged the shadows of my photographs and obscured the vast distances were still leaving their imprint on me when I made my first river trip through Glen Canyon four years later, but there were more important things leaving their imprints, too. The light! The bare rock forms of the land, and the color! These began to impress me more than the discomforts and initial strangeness. Those early impressions formed the core of my feeling for this country and programmed me for my continuing preoccupation with it.

In the spring of 1962, several years after politics had decided that the main artery of the wild Colorado would be bled for kilowatts, I backpacked in to Rainbow Bridge to help in a study that sought ways of protecting this magnificent natural span of stone from the coming encroachment of the reservoir. Later, in June, a second float trip from Hite to Lee’s Ferry really got me into Glen Canyon. Our itinerary was made up of places that must be seen for the last time, for a short time later the gates of Glen Canyon Dam’s diversion tunnels were to be closed and the great canyon condemned to drown.

In 1964, I got my first real look at Escalante Canyon and its tributaries on the last half of a trip that started out as a wake for Glen Canyon. Paddling off from Wahweap on 200-plus feet of water, we floated over the roof of Music Temple and peered through the green water trying vainly to see the great overhang in Moqui Canyon, marked now only by the top of the curve. Floating through the narrows of Aztec Canyon, we landed a short distance below Rainbow Bridge and strode up to pay our respects.

Continuing up the lake, as we entered between the high walls of the Escalante Arm we watched a great sand dune collapsing, undercut by the rising waters. We found Clear Creek just out of the rising pool below the entrance to the Cathedral in the Desert, so we saw the Cathedral pristine, but we learned later that summer that the water had come in and flushed out the lovely green moss carpet on the floor of that great vaulted stone chamber. This June, the last vestiges of the Cathedral were flooded.

We boated past the entrances of half-drowned Davis Gulch and Soda Gulch—too late—straining to imagine their vanishing beauty. In Soda Gulch, we found the water lapping at the base of Gregory Natural Bridge—one named glory among uncounted unnamed glories flickering out.

That sample of the Escalante River Canyon made me want to see more of it, but I wanted to explore a part that wasn’t condemned. So when the opportunity came a few years later to walk down the Escalante River from Harris Wash and back out through Coyote Gulch, I leapt at it. Finding arches and grottoes, plunge pools and great overhanging walls, small waterfalls and desert varnished cliffs—two marvelous weeks of it—was like finding again an old friend you’d thought dead.

You ask me to tell you why the flooding of Coyote’s mouth is a blow? I can only answer that it is quite possible to love a piece of country as one would love a friend, and grieve perhaps nearly as much when it is taken from you.

Twice I have returned to Escalante-Coyote country since that walk down the river. A number of times I have just driven by the edge to look into it, on the way to somewhere else. Wherever I travel in the canyon country, I find myself comparing new impressions to those first excited glimpses, much as you might compare new loves with your first romance. Emotional? Yes, but what finer emotion is there than love? This planet needs more of its people’s love, and less of some other emotions such as greed, or mankind may cease to be its people.

I am not really worried about the planet. It has survived countless cataclysms over the eons of geologic time, and I am certain it can survive the worst that humans can do to it. The planet does not need us as much as we need it. We need unpolluted air and water. We need the life support systems that nature provides. Man, with all his expensive, high-powered technology, can only imitate. And we need the spiritual stimulus that wilderness gives us to continue to grow as humans. The “good life” must include wild nature for our spirits, as well as unfouled nests, or mankind will simply become one of history’s extinct species. So, burn another candle to the memory of Glen Canyon, and listen to the bells, as John Donne urges. They toll for you and me.

To read more about and view Philip Hyde’s landscape photography of Glen Canyon see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio.”

Afterward (December 2010)

“Lake” Powell after taking 17 years to reach full capacity in 1980 remained more or less full for less than 15 years. Starting with droughts in the late 1990s, and reaching an all-time low in 2003-2004, the water level in Glen Canyon ranges between 50 and 100 feet down from its 1980 apogee. Experts now say that “Lake” Powell will most probably never fill completely again, due to evaporation, over-commitment of Colorado River water, recurring droughts and climate change. A movement is gaining momentum for removing dams that destroy river ecosystems and do not live up to their economic promises. See the blog post, “A River Will Run Through It.” Future blog posts will also include reviews of two new books on Glen Canyon that offer the history and a new outlook for the future:

1. Ghosts of Glen Canyon: History beneath Lake Powell by C. Gregory Crampton, foreward by Edward Abbey with 15 color photographs by Philip Hyde, 2009, University of Utah Press.

2. Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney, foreward by Bill McKibben with photographs by James Kay and “Cathedral In The Desert” by Philip Hyde, 2009, Braided River Press.