Posts Tagged ‘Lake Powell’

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 Institute Collaboration

December 5th, 2012

Philip Hyde Photography And Glen Canyon Institute Will Announce Collaborative Projects In 2013

(See the new Philip Hyde Gallery on the Glen Canyon Institute website home page.)

Cathedral In The Desert, Clear Creek Canyon, Glen Canyon, copyright 1964 by Philip Hyde. Made after the gates of Glen Canyon Dam were already closed and Lake Powell was filling. Named by American Photo Magazine one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century along with Flag Raising Over Iwo Jima, The Moonshot, VJ Day Sailor’s Kiss and others.

(See the photograph here large: “Cathedral In The Desert.”)

Philip Hyde Photography and Glen Canyon Institute staff are brainstorming, looking into and developing a number of projects to be announced in 2013. Potential projects include David Leland Hyde’s participation as a speaker in Glen Canyon Institute’s Roadshow when it travels to California in 2013, a new Cathedral In The Desert Poster, fundraising auctions, print sales, collaborative marketing and publicity and a number of other potential win-win adventures.

Recently Philip Hyde Photography granted to Glen Canyon Institute an internet licensing use for 29 of Philip Hyde’s photographs of Glen Canyon before Glen Canyon Dam and “Lake” Powell. Some of these photographs are not displayed anywhere else in the world, not even on the Philip Hyde Photography website. Glen Canyon Institute organized the Philip Hyde Glen Canyon photographs into a featured image gallery and displayed a link to this Philip Hyde photo gallery prominently on the Glen Canyon Institute home page. Glen Canyon Institute has gathered thousands of photographs on its website of Glen Canyon before it disappeared under “Lake” Powell and after it re-emerged in the last 10 years, including photographs by James Kay from his film and book Resurrection, which also contains a reproduction of Cathedral In The Desert next to James Kay’s contemporary photograph from the same ledge showing the newly emerged canyon oasis with it’s 60 foot high and one foot wide waterfall.

“The board was very impressed with your dad’s photo’s on our website – definitely some of the best we have…” –Eric Balkin, Programs Director, Glen Canyon Institute.

Richard Ingebretson of Salt Lake City founded Glen Canyon Institute with the help of environmentalist David Brower in 1996. For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalists 1.” The mission of Glen Canyon Institute is to restore Glen Canyon and the Colorado River. Currently focus is on the Fill Lake Mead First campaign. Both “Lake” Powell and “Lake” Mead have operated at less than half full capacity for over a decade. If “Lake” Powell were operated as a backup and remained for the most part empty, while “Lake” Mead were filled as full as possible, both Powell and Mead reservoirs would operate more efficiently, evaporate less water and more readily supply power and water to residents of the region. The Glen Canyon Institute Website explains some of the challenges:

The Colorado River Compact was based on flawed projections that seriously overestimated actual future river flow and seriously underestimated future water demand. As a result, growing demand, relentless drought, and climate change are creating a water deficit of almost 1 million acre-feet a year in the Colorado River system. Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoirs are half empty, and scientists predict that they will probably never fill again. The water supply of more than 22 million people in the three Lower Basin states is in jeopardy. The region is also facing an environmental crisis. The ecological health of the Southwest is tied to the fate of the Colorado River. A century ago, the Colorado was one of the world’s wildest rivers. Its extraordinary variations in water flow, temperature, and sedimentation created a unique ecosystem that was once home to 16 endemic fish species — the largest percentage of any river system in North America. The construction of more than a dozen dams during the last century has critically damaged the integrity of the Colorado River. Hundreds of miles of canyon and countless archaeological sites have been flooded, and dozens of wildlife species have been endangered. Glen Canyon Dam is one of the largest contributors to these problems…

The Colorado River ecosystem is in fragile condition and greatly altered throughout the Grand Canyon due to the dams upstream, as is the remainder of the Colorado River drainage downstream. One of the West’s most mighty rivers no longer reaches its own delta at the Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California between Baja California, Mexico and Mainland Mexico.

From the founding of Glen Canyon Institute, Philip Hyde supported the non-profit organization with his photographs. Glen Canyon Institute is largely responsible for the wide distribution of the iconic Philip Hyde photograph of Cathedral In The Desert that since its making in 1964 has become a symbol of the loss of Glen Canyon.

Glen Canyon Institute staff made Cathedral In The Desert into a popular poster that helped raise operating funds for its campaigns from 1996 on. We hope to make a new poster, possibly in conjunction with American Photo Magazine, which named Cathedral In The Desert one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century in it’s December 1999 issue on recommendation by David Brower, just as other prominent citizens and celebrities chose the other 99 of the top 100 photographs of the Century.

For more about how reservoirs are being drained, rivers reclaimed and dams removed in a global grassroots movement to restore the arteries of life on Earth, see the blog post, “A River Will Run Through It.” For more background on the devastation and damage to wilderness by dams see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.” For more on the photography of Glen Canyon by Philip Hyde see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” “Glen Canyon Portfolio 2” and “Glen Canyon Portfolio 3.”

New Release And Making of “Reflection Pool, Arches, Escalante Wilderness, Utah”

July 14th, 2011

The Making of “Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, 1968″

BIG NEWS:

New Release, “Reflection Pool, Arches, Escalante Wilderness, Utah.” Philip Hyde Archival Fine Art Digital Prints By Carr Clifton And David Leland Hyde Offered With Revised New Release Pricing:

The world’s best archival digital prints STARTING AT $99.00… for a limited time and number…

See revised New Release Pricing in the blog post, “New Release Pricing.”

Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde. Never before printed or published. Intended for use in the book “Slickrock,” by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde, but damaged before processing.

(See the image large: “Reflection Pool, Arches, Escalante Wilderness, Utah.”)

This photograph has never been printed before. It was partly damaged and unprintable in the film era. With new digital print restoring techniques, this one of a kind historical photograph is now available as an archival fine art digital print. A leading professional photo lab masterfully high resolution drum scanned Philip Hyde’s original 4X5 large format Ektachrome color transparency. This provided an 834 MB digital file far superior to any digital capture made today. From the drum scan, master landscape photographer, Photoshop expert and printer Carr Clifton carefully restored the image and crafted an exquisite print file.

The Photograph’s Historical Significance

The groundbreaking Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series popularized the coffee table photography book, set the standards for composition and technique for a generation of landscape photographers, brought color to landscape photography and helped to make many national parks and wilderness areas in the American West during the late 1950s, 1960s and the early 1970s. Ansel Adams, David Brower and Nancy Newhall invented the series, Eliot Porter was the best-selling book photographer, but according to an Outdoor Photographer article by Lewis Kemper in 1989, Philip Hyde was the go-to man for David Brower, series editor and Sierra Club Executive Director. More Philip Hyde’s photographs appeared in more books in the series than any other photographer. Right after Philip Hyde’s Navajo Wildlands: As Long As the Rivers Shall Run came out in 1967, Philip Hyde had already begun work on another Southwest book that became the classic Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah with Edward Abbey. Slickrock would be published to help build support for wilderness or national park protection of the Escalante River and for areas around Canyonlands National Park eventually added to the national park.

From Philip Hyde’s Solo Escalante Travel Log, Participating In A Sierra Club Back Country Backpack, Spring 1968: Written By Philip Hyde

May 1:  Utah: Escalante Wilderness: Gates Cabin camp to the camp below 25 Mile Canyon. The Escalante River Canyon narrowed, while the bends in the river lengthened and became tighter in the corners. We began today to traverse the upper part of what the wranglers call “The Narrows.” The canyon walls were intermittently higher and the big alcoves in the ends of the river bends began to resemble the characteristics of the lower Escalante River. There were more short side canyons. I went into one on the left, entering at right angles to the Escalante River. Suddenly it turned sharply at a large sand slope. The side canyon looked promising, with a narrow bottom, high walls, cottonwoods, box elders and a few Gambel’s Oaks.

About two miles up the side canyon ended abruptly. I crawled under a passage between two huge angular boulders and entered a chamber not unlike Cathedral in the Desert in Glen Canyon, Utah. This water hollowed canyon chamber was Cathedral in the Desert’s equal in quality but not in size. The vaulted roof was not as soaring and the dimensions of the chamber were much less than Cathedral in the Desert, but this canyon chamber had much the same feeling of remote solitude and secret beauty. There was likewise a plunge pool for reflections and a magnificent sandbar with a long, graceful curve. This pool was fed by a now dry set of chute like “chimneys” in the “roof,” rather than a waterfall as in Cathedral in the Desert. The two “chimneys,” side-by-side, one and then a double-barreled one next to it, are beautifully water-sculptured. These forms make me wish there were some way to ascend to the level of the “chimneys” to see the carved stream channel above.

I spent about two hours in the canyon mini cathedral and left reluctantly. I was elated to find this chamber where it is well out of reach of “Lake” Powell’s high water inundations. I continued back to the Escalante River, then down canyon, crossing the river innumerable times. The canyon was narrowing dramatically and the walls became higher and more impressive. I walked past some sharp bends in the canyon with great sandstone columns and overhangs. Down past the “winking eyes,” two rounded out holes high in the wall of the left bank. Past 25 Mile Canyon. I started into the mouth of 25 Mile Canyon, sauntered in about one hundred feet or so, reflected on the hour and decided to head for camp instead.

I was the last man in and Sierra Club campers were having their soup beneath the deep red cliff, perhaps 35 feet high that was catching the last rays of the sun. I ate and then made my bed among the limbs of a medium-sized cottonwood—a leafy bower with sandy floor and more privacy than usual. In my sleeping bag looking up at the sky, I saw it was cloudy again, with broken clouds blowing overhead, their moisture too diminished by the time they reached us to dump any rain, though it looked threatening at times all day. My tarp was ready to be rigged but no drops came and I slept.

Glen Canyon Portfolio 1

January 27th, 2011

Glen Canyon Portfolio 1

Landscape Photography Blogger’s Introduction

Bend In Colorado River Above Klondike Bar, Glen Canyon, 1962 by Philip Hyde.

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

The original Glen Canyon Portfolio came out in 1979. Northland Press of Flagstaff, Arizona published a limited edition lithograph portfolio of 20 images photographed by my father landscape photographer Philip Hyde in 1955, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964. Dad first visited the Glen Canyon vicinity in 1955. He joined river trips on the Colorado River through Glen Canyon in 1958, 1962 and 1964 after the gates on Glen Canyon Dam had already closed and the reservoir “Lake” Powell, or as Dad and many other land conservationists and environmentalists called it, Lake Foul, was already filling and drowning spectacular side canyons.

The river trips Dad participated in, all were with David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club and leader of the environmental coalitions that helped to keep dams out of the Grand Canyon, keep the trees in Redwood National Park and in North Cascades National Park and helped to expand or establish dozens of other national parks and wilderness areas of the development sensitive Western United States. David Brower was the father of modern environmentalism. He usually had his movie camera rolling while on the river and hiking the side canyons of the doomed Glen Canyon. My father even captured David Brower filming on still camera film.

Landscape and nature photographer Eliot Porter also photographed Glen Canyon and produced a gorgeous Sierra Club Book called “The Place No One Knew” in the Exhibit Format Series. Some of Eliot Porter’s images were intimate and sensitive, some grand and majestic, but they were all in color. Besides Eliot Porter, other photographers documented Glen Canyon, some of them were on the river trips with my father and David Brower. The talented photographer Tad Nichols made black and white prints of Glen Canyon. Environmental activist, singer and song writer Katie Lee also made both black and white and color photographs of Glen Canyon. Dad remains one of just a few formally trained creative photographers who made high quality original black and white photographs and prints of Glen Canyon. Dad’s vintage black and white prints of the doomed and drowning canyon are the only vintage black and white prints of their kind.

Recently I searched through the files and found the corresponding vintage black and white prints for each of the 20 images in the original Glen Canyon lithograph portfolio. I scanned them with an Epson 610 everyday desktop flatbed scanner that I purchased in 1998 with my Dell Windows ’98 computer. The scans came out a bit too dark in places. Some of the shadows are too large and too black without any detail in areas where the vintage black and white prints have detail. I will have to experiment more with the limited settings. Nonetheless, with a little tweaking in Photoshop to get the scans to look more like the prints do, they are at least somewhat viewable. They do not do justice to the gorgeous and luminous prints that my father made. He was a black and white printer extraordinaire.

To read more about Glen Canyon see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1,” “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 2,” and “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 3.” To read what David Brower wrote about Glen Canyon go to, “Let The River Run Through It.” To read about the movement to remove dams see the blog post, “A River Will Run Through It.”

The best scans from the original black and white prints from the original Glen Canyon Portfolio I combined with scans of vintage black and white prints from Grand Canyon National Park. Click on the title here: Glen & Grand Canyon Vintage Black and White Prints to view the images. Enjoy.

This series on the Glen Canyon Portfolio continued with the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 2.”

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.

Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 2

November 19th, 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 2

Continued from Blog Post 100, “Glen Canyon Lament by Philip Hyde 1.”

Originally published in The Living Wilderness Magazine September 1980

From The Living Wilderness: Contributing editor Philip Hyde’s photography of the Escalante region was featured in “Slickrock,” of which he and Edward Abbey wrote the text.

Great Overhang, Moqui Canyon, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1964 by Philip Hyde. Photographed after the gates of Glen Canyon Dam were already closed and "Lake" Powell began its 17 year journey toward filling.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

During the 17 years of painfully slow filling of the reservoir, the “robbing Peter to pay Paul” operation  of Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams has left some mementoes: the notices to Hoover Dam power customers to get their power elsewhere; the lawsuits of Lake Mead marina operators when they found their boat-launching ramps not just high and dry but nearly out of sight of water. To make a power dam pay for itself, as both Hoover and Glen were intended to do, requires running water through the turbines. Whenever this is done it draws down the reservoir. During the years that the bureau was trying to fill Glen’s reservoir, it had to borrow water that would have filled Lake Mead. What did this do to the revenues which were the sole financial justification for building both dams? What did it do to the revenue surplus over cost-payback that was supposed to furnish the funds to build the irrigation works planned in association with Glen Canyon Dam as part of the Upper Colorado River Storage Project?

Whatever the answers to such economic questions, the sacrifice of another kind of value is plain enough. Back in the 1930s National Park Service officials were sufficiently impressed with both Glen and Escalante Canyons to urge making them a national park. A 1935 proposal would have created one of 6,000 square miles. But the dam-building fever-the late Elmer Davis once called it “big dam foolishness”—which seized the nation in the 30s and 40s and 50s led to legislation to build a number of dams on the Colorado and its tributaries, including Glen Canyon. Two of them—Echo Park and Split Mountain, proposed for the Green River within Dinosaur National Monument—raised the specter of opening national parks to exploitation and thus aroused the opposition of every major conservation organization in the nation. In those days conservation organizations counted nowhere near the members, funds or public support they do now. Even so, the threat was enough to stop the bill until the two Dinosaur dams were deleted. It was also enough to win protective language for Rainbow Bridge National Monument, on a Glen Canyon tributary, though Lake Powell now laps at the base of this greatest of all natural bridges. But the Upper Colorado River Storage Project, finally approved by Congress in 1956, consigned the magnificence of Glen Canyon to a watery death.

With hindsight, it must seem an unequal compromise that sacrificed Glen Canyon. I consider the loss of Glen Canyon tragic. But I am certain that had Dinosaur been invaded, the precedent would have been enough to make possible the building of dams then on the drawing boards in at least eight national park system areas, including Grand Canyon. As it turned out, the loss of Glen Canyon became a rallying point a few years later when the dam builders actually reached for Grand Canyon. So far, dam proponents have been unable to overcome the worldwide opposition to their scheme. (But old dam proposals don’t die. They don’t even fade away like old soldiers, but stick around to resurface when it is believed that the opposition has relaxed its vigilance.)

Coyote Gulch and the upper Escalante tributaries are important because they constitute the last major remnant of the Glen Canyon system that still has the wild remoteness so essential to the feeling of wilderness. Escalante Canyon, carved into the same sandstone formation of the Jurassic Period as Glen Canyon, has many of the same qualities; the water-sculptured rock, the high, sheer walls decorated with paintbrush-like strokes of blue-black desert varnish; alcoves, stream meanders, natural bridges and arches, and the beautiful riparian plant growth that at once harmonizes and contrasts with the bare stone. Perhaps most impressive of all its qualities is the water—the small streams, springs and seeps so characteristic of the water-bearing Navajo sandstone. In another, wetter country these might be insignificant. But in this arid land of stone and sand, one has only to climb to the rim and walk beyond the reach of these trickles in the desert to appreciate their miraculous quality.

As they were in the original main artery, Glen Canyon, the Escalante’s scenic climaxes are at or close to the stream junctions. Many of the tributaries form incised meanders, a circumstance that gives rise to a whole series of wonders: fluting of the walls, close-linked bends some-times in cliffs hundreds of feet sheer, grottoes, great overhangs, alcoves. Where the meanders leave long, narrow peninsulas of rock, these may be cut through by later stream erosion to form natural bridges, or left above the stream long enough for other forms of erosion to take out the rock at the base, leaving arches.

As the Escalante River winds down and out of the high plateau, flowing in a generally southeasterly direction toward the Colorado, it cuts through an undulating stone basin bound on the southwest by the straight cliffs of the Kaiparowits Plateau and on the northeast by the Henry Mountains. The Escalante and the Henry Mountains were named by John Wesley Powell in 1868—the last named major river and mountain range in the coterminous United States.

The water of Lake Powell, laboriously rising for the last 17 years, has at last claimed many of the most beautiful tributaries of the Escalante—all of those below Coyote Gulch. Now it washes into Coyote, one of the grandest scenic climaxes of the Escalante basin. Was the ruining of the mouth of Coyote Gulch necessary?

Continued in the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 3.”

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

Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1

October 29th, 2010

Landscape Photography Blogger’s 100th Blog Post

For more about why dams are bad for rivers and how dams are being removed in a grassroots nationwide movement to restore the main arteries of life on Earth see the blog post, “A River Will Run Through It.” For more on how reservoirs infringe on wilderness read the blog post, “The Making of ‘Rainbow Bridge from the Upstream Side.’”

A Lament for Glen Canyon by Philip Hyde 1

Originally published in The Living Wilderness Magazine September 1980

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1964 by Philip Hyde after the Glen Canyon Dam gates were closed. Named by American Photo Magazine one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. Philip Hyde photographed Glen Canyon on river trips with David Brower and other Sierra Club leaders in 1958, 1962 and 1964.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Burn another candle to the memory of Glen Canyon—this time for a remnant of the great Utah-Arizona canyon system that most lovers of that rugged country thought safe from the clutches of the sprawling reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam. This time for the mouth of Coyote Gulch, that fine water-sculptured meeting of Coyote with the beautiful Escalante Canyon. And for an Escalante stretch above their junction.

Why in memoriam? Because after 17 years of waiting for the filling of the reservoir euphemistically named “Lake” Powell, this spring it finally happened. And as it did, a lot of people discovered one more error in the calculations made in the planning of Glen Canyon Dam. The maps for the reservoir area originally showed that the maximum pool (highest water level) would reach only to a point well below the Coyote mouth. This June, however, a surge of spring runoff from an unusually heavy snowpack on the Colorado River’s headwaters in the Rockies brought the reservoir level to its operational maximum (3,700 feet above sea level) for the first time since the gates of the dam’s diversion tunnels were closed in 1963. The surge flooded a sixth of a mile or so of Coyote Gulch to a depth of as much as 11 feet and backed up about a quarter of a mile beyond Coyote in the Escalante River Canyon. Thus it proved, the maps were wrong.

Hikers who had thought this the province of land-based, self-powered exploration and enjoyment suddenly found themselves cut off from access, unless they had a boat. Cut off from Escalante Canyon upstream, from the wonderful climb over ledges to the base of Stevens Arch, from Stevens Canyon.

No great loss, says the renamed Bureau of Reclamation (now the Water and Power Resources Service—WAPRS, pronounced woppers), which built and operates the dam. The hikers can swim, or float across on their air mattresses, or scramble up the ledges on a newly cairned detour trail that will even save the hurried some time over the old creek-bed route. Maybe just as well, agrees the National Park Service, which manages visitation in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Coyote was getting too much use anyway, and the water might help divert users to other Escalante entrances—although not the motorboaters, who already are acknowledging their own improved access to the Escalante and Coyote with deposits of beer cans and other “garbage.” “The wilderness ethic of boaters is different,” says an Escalante ranger.

Coyote is indeed wilderness, as is the rest of the superlatively wild Escalante canyon system, although not yet legally so. The lower dozen of Coyote’s 18 miles (as the crow flies) are part of a 588,855-acre Glen Canyon Wilderness proposal (another 49,000 acres could be added later) already recommended by the Secretary of the Interior and awaiting clearance for presidential submission to Congress. The balance of the gulch is on Bureau of Land Management lands, but BLM favors adding it to the recreation area and wilderness unit. But Lake Powell’s clutching fingers are complicating the wilderness prospect, too. Because Congress gave dam needs priority over all else in Glen Canyon, planners decided to make the wilderness boundary the reservoir water line. Thus when Lake Powell expands, the bordering wilderness would diminish. Sometimes Coyote’s mouth would be in, sometimes out. Therefore, what would be its status? “It’s a slippery one,” admits one official.

Park Rangers already are trying to manage the Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River as de facto wilderness, and they are understandably worried not only about the littering by the boaters but by campfire rings and other problems of growing public use. This fall they expect to introduce a permit system in order to control use and combat abuses. This is to the good. But there doesn’t seem to be much official concern about the direct impacts of the flooding—the lasting water damage to canyon walls desert-varnished by eons, or the mess left by silt and debris that collect at the reservoir slack water, or worse, the permanent dirty “bathtub ring” that any fluctuating reservoir inevitably leaves behind, and that Lake Powell will too.

Obviously, the former Bureau of Reclamation had a point to make: that it could fill a reservoir whose benefits and cost justification were based on miscalculation of the amount of water available in the Colorado River. One could use the services of an investigative-reporter team, or perhaps an indefatigable Ph.D. candidate armed with the Freedom of Information Act, to find out just how close Glen Canyon Dam has come to paying off anything during these 17 years of painfully slow filling of the reservoir…

Continued in the next blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 2

To read more about Philip Hyde and the defense of wild places, see the tribute blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.” For more on Glen Canyon and the photographs of it by Philip Hyde see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” “Glen Canyon Portfolio 2” and “Glen Canyon Portfolio 3.”

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4

March 27th, 2010

Philip Hyde on Assignment in Dinosaur National Monument and the Setting for the Battle that Helped Launch the Modern Environmental Movement

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur 3“)

The View From Roundtop, Dinosaur National Park, Utah-Colorado, 1951 by Philip Hyde.

“Next we knew, gas was gushing from the wound and my worst fears seemed realized as I recalled what people said about such a predicament. But the Ranger came dashing up in his green Charger, pulled us up the hill and led Champion still bleeding profusely up to the Mantle Ranch.”

Charlie Mantle provided a tub to catch the gas and reassured the Hydes that he could fix the tank with his soldering outfit. Philip Hyde and Charlie Mantle removed the gas tank and carried it over to Charlie Mantle’s lean-to outdoor shop. “He said he would take care of the rest,” Dad continued, “He said to go on inside and he would fix it before we left. Ardis and I went in to visit with Evelyn Mantle and the two kids that were there.”

One of Dad’s pictures shows Charlie Mantle’s Castle Park house with the landscape architect’s jeep parked in front. Dad took a dozen or more documentary and landscape photographs while waiting. Some of the photographs show the round castle-like buttes across the river, the inspiration for the name Castle Park. Charlie Mantle fixed the tank in just a few hours but he allowed Ardis and Philip Hyde to look around the area extensively. Today it takes a river raft or a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach Castle Park. The road to Castle Park was not the only harrowing road experience the young couple went through to see the country.

Dad told me about his one day trip up Roundtop Peak, one of the highest peaks in the monument, which rises above the Yampa River. Dad and Mom rode with “Boon” MacKnight, a local construction company owner and the monument’s maintenance man. Boon’s mission was to install fire lookouts. Roundtop is 8,575 feet in elevation and the river at Echo Park is 5,079 feet above sea level. Roundtop is almost 3,500 feet above the Yampa River and offers an excellent view of the whole Dinosaur canyon country. In another letter addressed to ‘Dick’ Leonard, Dad wrote:

We arrived up there around noon and the light was rather mediocre. We were there quite a while though getting antennas, etc, up and around 2:00 pm it began to get cloudy. I really should give you a little background—such as the many stories we’d heard about these dirt-clay roads when wet and the cloudbursts that one could expect in this country—So when the rain started pelting the little tent-house roof we could let our imaginations go a long way. After about an hour it cleared up, but Boon wouldn’t leave until he was sure the radio worked. Four o’clock came and no success and 4:30 brought another hour of pelting rain and greater doubts about our return. But when it cleared those ideas were quickly driven out of my head when I went outside and looked toward the Yampa River canyons, now shining in that beautiful, warm, late sunlight with long shadows. Here and there among the canyons white wisps of cloud were trying to make their way back to the sky. If I had ordered a perfect set of conditions it could not have been better. My shutters were literally smoking or steaming when I got through. The ride that followed down the mountain over clay-mud roads for some two and a half hours was an experience I don’t think Ardis and I will ever forget. It was one of those experiences you wouldn’t miss for the world, but would debate a long time before taking on again. But for the excellent driving and judgment of Boon MacKnight we would probably have slept that night on the mountain or maybe met some worse fate. But bring us through he did—over some 50 miles of sliding, slipping, sloshing, muddy morass. A paved highway has never meant quite so much, and I’m sure never will, as that black ribbon of firmness meant that night.

The canyon country mud irritates eyes, rubs into the pores of skin, cakes under fingernails and sticks in the pockets of clothes. The rivers of the Southwest are heavy laden with it, which is why the dams of the Colorado River system are each filling with silt from the upper end. Even as little as five years after Glen Canyon Dam backed up “Lake” Powell downstream from Dinosaur National Park on the Colorado River, at the reservoir’s upper end miles of mud flats had already accumulated. Dams in the Southwest are like giant strainers, slowing the water down and allowing the finest mud in the world to settle out.

Besides the disadvantage of creating vast silt beds, of degrading surrounding habitats and many other harmful environmental impacts, even the economic soundness of large dams world-wide has come into question, reports a study by the World Commission on Dams, a coalition of industry and environmental groups. The long-term viability of dams in the arid Colorado Plateau region is now especially doubtful as evaporation rates have proven much higher than anticipated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of “Wreck-the-nation” as environmentalists called it, and the Army Corp of Engineers, were the two government organizations responsible for building an estimated 2.5 million dams in the United States, said Time Magazine. Every Engineer knows that all dams will eventually fill with silt. David Brower in For Earth’s Sake said the Bureau of Reclamation must have encouraged their engineers to pad figures to make the dams plausible.

David Brower believed in fighting all environmental destruction, but in the 1950s even conservation organizations like the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society and the Izaak Walton League were in favor of some dams because in the post-World War II political climate they did not want to appear against progress. In the early days of modern environmentalism, the organizations opposed dams if they threatened to flood a National Park or an exceptionally beautiful landscape. Early environmentalists had little political power, but the Dinosaur battle changed all of that. The burgeoning movement discovered it could influence public opinion and move Congress with enough publicity, lobbying and letter writing.

The battle over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument centered on preserving the protected status of the National Park System. Because of this intent, an even greater loss occurred, that of the spectacular canyons and grottos of Glen Canyon downstream on the Colorado River. Glen Canyon was never protected by a National Park or Monument. Therefore, the majority of Sierra Club leaders who had never seen Glen Canyon considered it a worthy sacrifice to withdraw opposition to the proposed dam there, if dam proponents and Congress would guarantee the sanctity of the National Park System. Certain Sierra Club leaders, like Martin Litton, had seen Glen Canyon and called for the Sierra Club  and its allies to continue opposition to the many proposed dams of the entire Colorado River Storage Project. Martin Litton and others supported a proposal for an Escalante National Park before World War II and the later Dinosaur battle, but after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the idea of an Escalante National Park remained in the background.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the two decades of peak dam construction in the United States, the government built dams mainly as pork barrel projects to provide jobs and financial stimulus to less developed areas of the country, explained Patrick McCully in Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams. To begin with, the Dinosaur projects were the same. In recent years dam construction has declined world-wide, as the movement against dam building gains momentum. Time Magazine said that in the United States over 600 dams have been dismantled, including 175 this decade.

Dams in the Southwest interfere with several natural processes crucial to river ecosystems: Dams prevent the large floods that used to clean out brush and the overgrowth of weeds. Floods deposit fresh sand bars and form pools and small mudflats that provide breeding, feeding and spawning grounds for native species of fish, birds, reptiles and mammals, Jeffrey Mount wrote in California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict Between Fluvial Process and Land Use. The non-native and highly invasive Tamarack tree took hold since the end of the largest annual flows. None of the dams in the Colorado River Storage Project generate the level of electricity for which they were engineered. As Marc Reisner points out in Cadillac Desert, Reservoirs raise the salt content of the river and this effect compounds yearly, decreasing irrigated crop quality and yield. Hydropower is not even a clean energy, as scientists have discovered, because reservoirs emit green-house gases, Patrick McCully points out in Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams.

In 1950, the same year the Korean War began, Oscar Chapman, Harry Truman’s Secretary of Interior, recommended congressional authorization for the Upper Colorado River Storage Project, which consisted of a dam at Echo Park, a few miles downstream from Steamboat Rock, and a dam at Split Mountain also on the Green River below the Dinosaur Quarry near the Monument’s southern boundary…

(CONTINUED IN THE NEXT BLOG POST IN THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 5.”)

A River Will Run Through It

February 23rd, 2010

Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River, during removal looking upstream. Courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Grants Pass, Oregon–The momentum continues for removing dams and freeing America’s wild rivers. Dams on the Rogue River and Klamath River in Oregon, Hetch Hetchy Valley on the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park, California and Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in Arizona and Utah, are just a few of the targets of dam demolition campaigns.

Nearly 90 years ago the Grants Pass Irrigation District built Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River to provide irrigation water for nearby farms. Farmers benefited; fish did not. Fish ladders were installed for coho and chinook salmon and steelhead, but they did not change the dams status as the biggest fish killer on the river.

A Portland, Oregon organization known as Waterwatch, spearheaded campaigns to remove Savage Rapids Dam, Gold Ray Dam, Gold Hill Dam, Elk Creek Dam and Lost Creek Dam from the Rogue River, historically Oregon’s second largest salmon spawning watershed behind the Klamath River. Projects are also in motion on the Klamath River that will eventually set the mighty river completely free, supported by the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes.

River ecosystems are the basis of all life on Earth. Not only do dams kill fish, they destroy other native species, increase the negative effects of drought as opposed to alleviating these as often publicized, increase the water’s salinity, encourage non-native trees and shrubs, remove sandbars, marshes and other habitat for small land and marine animals and waterfowl, waste more water than they save, especially in arid climates, and often lose money as they fail to produce the levels of hydro-power projected. Technologies have recently been refined that allow for hydro-power to be generated without damming rivers; by merely diverting a portion of the flow through large pipes into turbines.

Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River, former site immediately after breaching, looking downstream. Courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Waterwatch staff fearlessly decided three years ago that Savage Rapids Dam must go. Demolition began in October 2006, the dam was completely breached in October 2009 and one of the largest dam removal projects in the country is now almost complete. To get the project going, Waterwatch representatives argued about water rights, rallied fishermen and kayakers, and they got in touch with Earthjustice attorneys Mike Sherwood and Claudia Polsky. Earthjustice, a spinoff from the Sierra Club, started as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in 1971, and changed its name to Earthjustice in 1997. Mike Sherwood and Claudia Polsky recently succeeded in gaining Endangered Species Act protection for the coho salmon. They were thereby able to charge the dam operators with illegally harming a protected species. Eventually all parties agreed that the dam would come out and be replaced with pumps that divert water straight out of the river for farms, with no impoundment necessary.

American Rivers, based in Washington DC, “has led a national effort to restore rivers through the demolition of dams that no longer make sense,” said American Rivers promotional materials. “The organization’s expertise and advocacy have contributed to the removal of more than 200 dams nationwide.” American Rivers released a statement last month that in 2009, 58 dams in 16 states, were taken down.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, a dam went up in the United States every six minutes to generate electricity, provide irrigation water and protect against floods,” wrote Matthew Preusch in the New York Times. “As a result, there are an estimated 75,000 aging dams blocking rivers large and small today.”

Hetch Hetchy Valley, Field of Stumps, Yosemite National Park, 1955, by Philip Hyde, who discovered that the water level was very low and drove straight to the Sierra Club Headquarters in San Francisco to tell David Brower. David Brower dropped everything, grabbed his movie camera and they rushed back to photograph and film. To this day Restore Hetch Hetchy uses the David Brower film and Philip Hyde photographs in their campaign to restore this paradise lost. The Sacramento Bee won a Pulitzer Prize for their series covering the Hetch Hetchy debate. Philip Hyde's widely published photograph appeared on PBS Television's Jim Lehrer News Hour in a segment about the controversy in 2008.

A California group, Restore Hetch Hetchy, continues to fight for the restoral of Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley. Hetch Hetchy is a sister valley to Yosemite and at one time approached Yosemite Valley’s beauty, with waterfalls, rich grasslands and wildlife, verdant forests, and the Tuolumne River lazily winding through the center. However, after the 1906 Earthquake, San Francisco proposed damming Hetch Hetchy Valley to form a reliable water supply. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, led the opposition to the dam. Many say he died of a broken heart after the O’Shaughnessy Dam flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley. Gifford Pinchot, leader of the U. S. Forest Service, who many now claim was an environmentalist, was one of the leading proponents of the dam. Ironically, modern studies show that San Francisco could obtain the same amount of water with less expense downstream.

Hetch Hetchy was the first and last time any agency built a dam on National Park lands. A coalition of environmental organizations, led by the Sierra Club and David Brower, successfully defeated two dams proposed in Dinosaur National Monument in the early 1950s and lobbied Congress to pass legislation that strengthened laws preventing such development in the National Park System. However, to save Dinosaur National Monument, the coalition of environmental groups had to endorse the damming of Glen Canyon as a better alternative. Few people had ever seen Glen Canyon. By the time wilderness proponents Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde and other Sierra Club landscape photographers published spectacular images lamenting the loss of one of the world’s most beautiful wild places in the early 1960s, it was too late. The Bureau of Reclamation had already closed the gates on the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell had begun to consume the canyon wilderness.

Glen Canyon Dam and "Lake" Powell, Utah and Arizona. Creatas Photos Royalty Free Photograph.

Today, the granddaddy dam removal proposal of them all is to redeem Glen Canyon and make it a National Park. The Glen Canyon Institute has piloted this endeavor since 1996 with support from David Brower, Philip Hyde and currently Philip Hyde Photography. Read Philip Hyde’s expression of grief over the loss of Glen Canyon and part of the Escalante Wilderness in the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde.” “Lake” Powell, or Powell Reservoir to be more accurate, has drawn down over 100 feet in droughts several times and reached an all-time low in 2003. The reservoir was only completely full for a short time in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The sandstone bedrock leaks more water than the net storage for irrigation and the “lake” surface evaporates more water every year than the “lake” holds. Glen Canyon Dam has prevented the Colorado River from the periodic flooding that forms sandbars vital to the survival and propagation of plant and wildlife species downriver in Grand Canyon National Park. In contrast, small daily fluctuations due to power generating releases have carried away most of the sandbars and threatened endangered species, disrupting the natural ecosystem of Grand Canyon National Park. Reportedly, the soft sandstone that Glen Canyon Dam is anchored in, nearly failed in 1983 after a flood on the upper Colorado River. Glen Canyon Dam is aging and its lifespan is estimated at as little as 100 years by dam removal proponents and 500-700 years by the Bureau of Reclamation. The heavy-laden Colorado River and San Juan River are rapidly filling Powell Reservoir with silt that decreases electricity generation and can interfere with Glen Canyon Dam’s proper operation. A breach of Glen Canyon Dam could cause a floodwave that would top the downstream Hoover Dam by as much as 230 feet, resulting in a potential megatsunami disaster downstream. Much more on Glen Canyon Dam, “Lake” Powell, Edward Abbey and the The Monkey Wrench Gang in future blog posts. See also the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Lament 1 By Philip Hyde,” “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1” and “Glen Canyon Portfolio 2.” For more about who Edward Abbey was read the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?

References:
Earthjustice Press Release.
The Portland Orgonian, Oregon Environmental News, “The Rogue River Dam Removal Moves Forward”
Waterwatch
American Rivers
New York Times, “Dams Go Down, Uncorking Rivers For Kayakers”
Restore Hetch Hetchy
Glen Canyon Institute
Scientists Struggle to Preserve Grand Canyon Wildlife

Toward a Sense of Place by Philip Hyde 3

January 30th, 2010

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST “Toward a Sense of Place 2“)

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Horse and Cottonwoods at the Mouth of Canyon de Chelly, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1963, by Philip Hyde. From Navajo Wildlands, Sierra Club Books.

Toward a Sense of Place 3

By Philip Hyde

From Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run

Sierra Club—Balantine Books

*Note: Beware of using this as a travel guide. The areas where people are allowed and the approaches to them may have changed since 1967. Also, the politically correct term for the native people now is their own word, “Dineh,” in its various spellings, rather than the Spanish word in common practice then, “Navajo.”

Our Navajo Mountain adventure took on a new aspect two mornings later when our packer brought up his retinue of three horses, four people, and two dogs. Walking down into Painted Rock, where we would set up our base camp for exploring the westside canyons, we learned that the first four miles don’t prepare you for the spectacular climax. The trail traverses the slopes of the mountain—lightly dusted with snow on that early morning—crosses several incipient canyons, climbs a bit, and passes through a narrow sandstone defile called Sunset Pass on one side and Yabut on the other. Then the trail peels off like a dive bomber into a funnel-shaped abyss, Cliff Canyon, and its great sheer cliffs of warm yellow sandstone. The canyons that twist their way eventually into the waters of Lake Powell come into view, and the long backbone of the Kaiparowits Plateau recedes in a straight line northwestward into the blue slopes where the Escalante River begins.The isolated bulk of Cummings Mesa intervenes to the south. If you look when you are high enough, and it is a clear day, you will see the great arch of the Kaibab Plateau on the far southwestern horizon. We saw it. To the north, Waterpocket Fold, and its Circle Cliffs are partly cut off by the northwestern shoulder of Navajo Mountain. Within this arc you see what is left of the climax of the Glen Canyon system. They still have beauty, but to those of us who knew Glen before it was flooded this remains a supreme act of bureaucratic vandalism. Happily, little of the unnaturally—and temporarily—blue water of “Lake” Powell is visible from the trail.

Two miles beyond the great drop into Cliff Canyon is First Water. A mile beyond that, our trail turned out of Cliff Canyon to climb through a narrow cleft in the sandstone, Redbud Pass. At this turn, we saw the pictographs that gave Painted Rock its name. We camped, and spent one day exploring Cliff Canyon and Forbidden Canyon. The second we went as far as Oak Canyon on the trail leading around the Mountain. On the third day we reached around the Mountain. On the third day we reached the perigee of our five-day orbit when we decided to walk down to Rainbow Bridge.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Rainbow Bridge from Downstream, Navajo Mountain in the Distance, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Arizona, 1964, by Philip Hyde. Before Glen Canyon Dam filled and Lake Powell flooded Forbidden Canyon. Reached Hiking with a Backpack.

Our first view of the Bridge had been some years before, after coming up five miles from the river through a magnificent canyon of beautiful rock sculpture and delightful long, narrow pools. We were almost reluctant to go to the Bridge again after that fine, wild memory of it, knowing that it was now only a mile and a half from the rising edge of Lake Powell that is engulfing the stream that created the bridge.

We had been three days in the wilderness, with all that is implied in getting close to the land and letting it get close to you. For more on wilderness see the blog post, “Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea.” We rounded the last great curve above the Bridge and began to see tourists. I sniffed the air and—sensed something extraordinary about it, but was not quite able to name it. Then I knew: it was perfume, emanating from some immaculately clad yachtsmen—or was it the yachtwomen among them—busily signing the register under the Bridge. The Bridge looked the same, or did it? Was it only an illusion that it looked a little like a reasonable facsimile, a little plastic? To know what the real Bridge looks like, don’t you have to participate in the finding of it, a little arduously along the stream that made it possible, the heat and the cobbles and the water and the time that all combined to build that Bridge? Can you merely sit, throttle, steer, and saunter and still begin to know what it was? For more about the color photograph of Rainbow Bridge see the blog post, “The Making Of ‘Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side.’”

I think of the land of the Navajos as a living entity of moods—of light moments and gloomy. Above all I think of color—color constantly changing with the light, color that infused the life of the people who have passed over this land.

Overpoweringly, this place testifies to man’s transitory nature—and yet confirms his continuity. That continuity may end if this should ever cease to be a land of time enough and room enough. The automobile could obliterate both, and along with them, the wilderness experience.

I still remember the climax of that experience for us. It was the walk to Keet Seel, and what we felt there. Keet Seel, the most remote of the three great Anasazi ruins in Navajo National Monument, is about eight miles by trail through the sandy canyons of the Tsegi system cut into the mesas just west of Monument Valley. The great ruin itself is not visible until the last quarter of a mile, and then it seems diminutive. Not until you are under the edge of the great sandstone shell sheltering the ruin does its scale become apparent.

Great Kiva, Mummy Cave Ruin, Canyon del Muerto, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, by Philip Hyde.

We climbed up the ledge, into the ruin, and suddenly believed we were the discoverers. There were few footprints, and we saw only a lone Navajo looking for strays. The silence was so pervasive that we found ourselves speaking in low tones—I guess out of respect for the people who had just departed 700 years ago. The wind blew everywhere we went that spring, but it was still now. The silence grew as we cooked supper and rolled out our bags on a lower level beneath the ruin. A tiny seep, with a depression beneath it just big enough for a cup, gave us our nightcap, and we went to sleep where the ancient ones had gathered food and looked out and talked, and had put their children to sleep.

Philip Hyde, April 1967

To read more about Navajo Country go to the blog post, “The Making Of ‘Rainbow Bridge From the Upstream Side.’”