Posts Tagged ‘Southwest’

Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Two

April 2nd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument 2013

Part Two: Across The Misty Ranching Highlands

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde. Archival Chromogenic Prints Available.

 Arrival In Vernal, Departure For Dinosaur

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part One.”)

Even with sporadic rain and spring virgas dotting the horizon, the high open mountain passes of Rocky Mountain National Park, shining with stark beauty, already felt dry like the deserts of the interior and Western side of Colorado. Coming from the drizzle of a wet summer on the Colorado Front Range in Boulder, the high desert plains north and west of Steamboat Springs were warm and welcoming with the smell of sage and sun cracked earth all the way to Vernal, Utah.

After arriving indestructible at Randy Fullbright’s house at 4:00 am, I followed his previous instructions for where to catch a few hours of sleep. After waiting as long as he could, Randy woke me up somewhere between 7:00 and 8:00 am, and I found I was no longer indestructible. Indeed, with the night’s caffeine worn off, I was bone tired. Not only did I have very little sleep that night, I had just spent two weeks with minimal sleep moving all of my belongings. Weariness finally caught up with me here, in Vernal, the very morning I was supposed to rise to the occasion for a long hike in Dinosaur National Monument.

Well, I couldn’t exactly drive all that way, show up on Mr. Fullbright’s doorstep and then try to explain why I was too tired to go, especially with excitement in the air and him already well into his coffee that was making him increasingly indestructible by the minute, not that he wasn’t tough as nails even in his sleep. Everything I began to say about being tired sounded like a feeble excuse on the way out. So, I abandoned that line for the time being. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have reasoned that there might be opportunities for complaining later, but fortunately that would prove not to be the case.

Just then it was all about gathering my hiking boots, socks, camera gear, day pack and other items for our outing that seemed determined to rock on whether my body was ready or not. Randy and I had been talking on the phone about exploring Dinosaur for weeks, if not months, and the day had arrived. It was overcast so far. We wrestled our gear into Randy’s Ford 4×4 pickup, made lunches, reshuffled my cooler and other food into a cool place in the house and jumped in the truck ready rumble.

The Approach: Diamond Mountain Road

Dinosaur lies east of Vernal. You can take the road to the Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side before you get back into Colorado, or take Highway 40 across the Colorado border, turning left on the Harper’s Corner Road near the park headquarters and Colorado side visitor’s center, or enter the national monument on dirt roads that cross the prairie ranch lands just east of Vernal. We took Diamond Mountain Road. It jarred us around here and there with a few rough spots, but generally was smooth graded gravel that turned to pothole-riddled pavement in the national monument. Diamond Mountain Road meandered through dry washes and over low mesas that melted together as one open mesa top and faded into the mist in the distance. The sun nearly broke through in a few places, but mainly the clouds kept the sage-dotted sparsely grass-covered earth draped in mystery.

This land stage is battleground not only to the interests of Dinosaur National Monument, wealthy ranchers, developers, speculators and miners in a new energy boom. It is a battleground for idealists wishing to grow wealthy as Vernal develops as a mecca for fracking and other dirty mining approaches. Some special interests believe the only obstacle to Vernal’s rise to economic stardom and wealth would be Dinosaur becoming a national park and thereby imposing higher air quality standards on the area, limiting industrialization. Tourism interests and others on the other side of the issue believe the opposite. They argue that it is exactly Dinosaur’s conversion to national park status that would bring more new prosperity to the region than any other short-lived or even long-lived mineral or oil and gas extraction boom.

Randy and I had discussed many of these issues in the weeks and months leading up to my arrival in the area. Randy had also told me stories about photographing many of the remote and little known parts of Dinosaur, some that my father, pioneer wilderness photographer Philip Hyde had also photographed in 1951-1955, many that he had not. Randy spoke of places like Island Park, Echo Park, The Chairs, Jones Hole, Harper’s Corner, Mantle’s Ranch, Old Roundtop, Split Mountain, Whirlpool Canyon, Gates of Ladore, Hell’s Canyon, Yampa Bench, Rainbow Park, Douglas Mountain, Blue Mountain, Cub Creek, Deer Lodge Park and many others in the canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more on remote places to photograph see the blog series beginning with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.”

Many Ranchers And Other Groups Are Against Dinosaur Becoming A National Park

“Many of the ranchers, who also happen to be old friends of mine, are against Dinosaur becoming a national park,” Fullbright said. “They are afraid that they will lose their rights to grazing on the national monument if it becomes a national park.” This has happened over time in several national parks of the west. In Canyonlands, for example, grazing rights and leases were written to run out after 100 years. Randy said that in contrast the National Park Service in Dinosaur would be willing to offer grazing rights in perpetuity. “It wouldn’t be that hard for the National Park Service to give each of the old ranching families a grandfather clause for running livestock as long as their blood lines last, but they don’t trust that.”

Later, after I returned home to Northeastern California, Randy suggested I contact Dan Johnson, Dinosaur’s Chief Interpretive Ranger, to hear more about the potential for a change in Dinosaur’s park status. More on the issues involved in the next blog post in this series…

As we crossed the high plateaus approaching the canyons of the Green River, the signs of grazing were apparent and an occasional lonely fence angled off into the distance to join others. The mood of austerity was accentuated by washed out skies, white mists and lands colored by a limited palette of grays and beiges. Even in these drab conditions, the desolate wind-swept near-raw land had a presence and nature that only brought joy rather than loneliness to the heart of long-time desert travelers and dwellers like Randy Fullbright and me. The ceiling began to lift as we drove. By the time we came up over a hill and could look down on the fish hatchery and see ahead the impressive 10-15 mile long escarpment of Diamond Mountain. The skies remained gray overhead, but we could see as far as the land allowed in every direction.

I made a few photographs before we plunged down toward Diamond Gulch on the road that began to wind sharply with the contours of the hillsides. We stopped once again before a longer stop for more photographs where the road turned to parallel Diamond Mountain. At that spot, the views up at the eroded sculpting of the strata of Diamond Mountain in subtle reds, oranges, tans and beiges, were well worth photographing.

Randy drove us on down just a little ways to the Fish Hatchery, where we parked, talked to the park ranger for a while, then hoisted day packs and set off down the fishing trail into Jones Hole along Jones Creek. More on the story of our hike, some of it’s highlights and surprises,  conservation photography, spiritual experiences in nature and more in the next blog post.

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Three.”)

Are you a desert lover? Why?

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.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21st, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012…

Dried Native Corn Bundle, Adobe Wall, Santa Fe, New Mexico, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Outside the wind roars and the rain drums on the roof and the decks. Inside I sit in the warmth of the stove, cozy, listening to the fire hum with the wind outside and watching the flames dance through the glazed stove door casting a faint glow that flickers around the room.

Today it was dark and gloomy, lonely and a bit sad here. The seasons march on into the night, into winter and into the past. The past that hovers just beneath the surface, that still holds a candle for the future. A past enriched by love and laughter. We were wandering in the wilderness with open hearts. The people we were, are only here in memory now. Yet perhaps they are still here in some other form, they must be. They feel very close, yet very far away.

Tomorrow, the rain will stop, the weather report promised. The sun will come out. Everything will glisten wet, fresh and clean, washed by time and the weather. I do not have to become addicted to technology to believe in the future. The future will be here, whether I believe in it or not. Will I be here? If I am here, in what form will I appear? Will I be like the rain? Will I change into the wind and roar over the mountains and down the canyons? Will I sweep out to sea and not come back until I blow out the lights in New York City? Perhaps.

Perhaps I will be changed by the sun. I will grow soft and kiss a new baby’s cheek. I will sit by the stove in the firelight and play the guitar with my friends. I will bring a salad and an offering to the Thanksgiving feast. I will give thanks for the many blessings I have. I will think about the Pilgrims and what they went through to find their rock. I will share with the native people and not take advantage of their generosity this time. I will celebrate my culture and many other cultures without bending them to a colorless mix of media, advertising and globalization. I will stay small and happy by the fire, happy in my local ways, eating well, close to the land, warm while I know I am ready for the storm. I don’t fear the rain or the water because I am their brother. I am the wind. I am Giving Thanks.

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.

New Portfolio Added: Old Mexico And Baja California

June 9th, 2011

New Portfolio: Old Mexico and Baja California In Color

Ardis And Philip Hyde’s Old Mexico And Baja California Travels And A New Portfolio Of Philip Hyde’s Photographs Added To PhilipHyde.com

Comala Church Interior, Comala, State of Colima, Mexico, copyright 1995 by Philip Hyde. This medium format photograph is a raw high resolution scan file, not yet post-processed for printing.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Ardis, David and Philip Hyde traveled to Baja California, Mexico with trip leader and photographer Terrence Moore and assistant leader Tom Pew in 1973. The purpose of the journey was to seek out the wildest places on the Baja peninsula that could be reached by four wheel drive vehicle. The year 1973 will always be significant to Baja California wilderness history because that year the Mexican Government completed all pavement sections of the main road from Tijuana and Mexicali on the California, United States border to the end of the 800-mile Baja peninsula at Cabo San Lucas and Cabo Falso. In 1973, Cabo San Lucas was still mainly wild, while today it is a tourist mecca and resort destination. See Philip Hyde’s well-known black and white photograph of Cabo Falso compared with the beaches at Cabo Falso and Cabo San Lucas today.

Outdoor Photographer Terrence Moore had been an expert for decades on Baja California, Mexico. Terrence Moore knew the roads, the missions, the towns, the beaches or playas, the Mexican people and the Spanish language. Tom Pew was also a long-time Baja California explorer, long time Southwestern US explorer and the publisher of American West Magazine when it was about all aspects of the Southwest, particularly the arts of the Southwest, as opposed to after 1989 when he sold American West Magazine and it became solely a cowboy Western magazine.

The 1973 Baja California Camping Trip Began A Wilderness Love Affair

The 1973 four-wheel-drive wilderness camping trip down Baja California began in Yuma, Arizona where Ardis, David and Philip Hyde met trip leader and photographer Terrence Moore, as well as assistant leader and publisher Tom Pew and the rest of the participants in the group. They all set out in the Hydes’ Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon and two Chevrolet Blazers down the Gulf of California coast from Mexicali to San Felipe to Puertocitos, Bahia San Luis Gonzaga, Calamujue, San Borja Mission, Bahia de los Angeles, Bahia de la Giganta, San Javier Mission, Punta Conejo, La Paz, Cabo Pulmo and finally to Cabo San Lucas. On the return up Baja California, back to the US, the Hydes traveled without the group back to La Paz and then on to Commandu, Bahia Concepcion, Rancho Rosarito, Rancho Jaraguay, El Rosario, San Ysidro, Baja and finally to San Diego, California, USA. For more about the 1973 Baja California trip stay tuned for future blog posts.

The 1973 wilderness camping trip began Ardis and Philip Hyde’s love affair with Baja California, as well as their love affair with Mexico. The Hydes returned to Baja California in  1981, 1984, 1988, and in 1995 with Jack Dykinga and Susan and Tom Bean when Ardis Hyde was nearly 70 years old and Philip Hyde was almost 74.

Travels To Mainland Old Mexico

In 1980, Ardis and Philip Hyde visited mainland Mexico. They traveled by air from Sacramento, California to Guadalajara, Mexico, rented a car and drove to Patzcuaro Michoacan, Mexico and Colima. Near Colima they re-discovered Rancho El Balcon, where Ardis Hyde’s Grandparents and her father’s family lived for nearly a decade in the early 1900s. Ardis and Philip Hyde attended an Audubon seminar at Cobano, visited Cuyatlan Lagoon, Manzanillo and Volcan de Colima before flying back to the US. More on this trip in future blog posts.

As part of Philip Hyde’s desert project that later became the book Drylands: The Deserts of North America, Ardis and Philip Hyde made a field trip to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts through Arizona and into Baja California, Mexico at San Luis and through the Pinacate Volcano Field and the Cerro Colorado Volcanic Crater area in Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, Mexico and the Elegante Volcano field in Pinacate Natonal Park, Mexico, Puerto Penasco, Playa Encanto, Cabeza Prieta, Granite Range, Ligerta RV Park, Microonda Basura, Kino Bay, Hermosilo, Nogales, Chihuahua, Paquime, PIrineos, Cuatro Cienegas, Pozo Churince, Canon Huasteco, Gomez Palacio, Posada del Rio, Villa Humada, Samalayuca Sand Dunes and up to El Paso, Texas. The Hydes also returned to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts in 1989. In 1990, Ardis and Philip Hyde traveled to Mexico City and the City of Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico. See the blog post, “Mexico City And Oaxaca Travel Log.”

The New Portfolio And Future New Releases

The photographs in the “Old Mexico And Baja California Color Portfolio” on PhilipHyde.com represent a cross-section of the places Ardis and Philip Hyde visited in Mexico and Baja California. The portfolio as you see it is just beginning and currently incomplete with many of the images remaining in raw high resolution drum scan form, not yet post-processed for archival fine art digital printing. Also, only 12 photographs out of 18 to 20 are now available for viewing even in raw form. Many more Mexico and Baja California photographs will be drum scanned, post-processed and made available as archival fine art digital prints. Please stay tuned.

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

April 26th, 2011

The Making Of The Widely Published And Collected Photograph In Philip Hyde’s Own Words

New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963

Landscape Photography Blogger Introductory Note:

Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, copyright 1963 by Philip Hyde. Widely exhibited and published including in “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America” and related major museum exhibitions. In permanent museum collections.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

As part of his first explorations of the American Southwest in 1951 and 1955, Philip Hyde documented Dinosaur National Monument on the first photography assignment for an environmental cause. (See the series of blog posts that begin with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1“)

Ardis and Philip Hyde returned to the Southwest in the Fall of 1963 and visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Monument, now also a national park, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon National Park, the Hopi Villages, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest National Monument, Walnut Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, “Lake” Mead National Recreation Area and Glen Canyon Dam. Philip Hyde on this trip planned to build his stock photography files, gather images for several upcoming conservation projects as well as working on an assignment from the National Park Service photographing several of the national park’s facilities and buildings’ architecture. After a stop in Zion National Park, the Hydes moved on to Bryce Canyon National Park…

Excerpted From Philip Hyde’s 1963 travel log:

By Philip Hyde

September 24, 1963: We decided to go on to Bryce Canyon and come back to Zion National Park later—after Canyonlands, or on our way home before “Lake” Mead. We broke camp and headed for Bryce Canyon. On the way out of Zion, I spent an hour or so working on the East side formations after the tunnel—Checkerboard Mesa and Navajo Formation pavements. Then we went on out of Zion and north. We stopped about 11 am at Edith Hamblin’s place on the north end of Mt. Carmel. Edith Hamblin is the widow of painter Maynard Dixon. We also stopped in to see Dick McGraw at his studio and guest house with a view toward the White Cliffs, then drove on to Bryce Canyon, arriving about 3 pm.

At Bryce Canyon we went to the visitor’s center to meet with the Park Engineer and Naturalist. Then we headed on out to the first overlook road. In the fairyland section the light was gorgeous. I took my 4X5 view camera and walked down the trail half a mile or so into the canyon. I made six color transparencies and two black and white negatives. Then we drove back to the Visitor’s Center in later light which was also very good. Called it a day and headed to the campground, which was rather exposed with little gravel platforms for camp sites. The Park Ranger said that the low last night was down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit, so I put antifreeze into the radiator that I bought in Hatch, Utah.

September 25: In the morning I went up to the Visitor’s Center to shoot interiors for the National Park Service. Then we went first to Sunset Point and down the Navajo Loop Trail to the canyon bottom where I made several exposures. We drove out along the loop road to

Various viewpoints and eventually to Rainbow Point, then back along the rim. Back at Sunset Point I caught the late light and walked down the Queen’s Garden Trail just at Sunset when the light was magnificent. I photographed until the light failed. When we returned to the car, we ran into Adele and John Hampton of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, whom we had met in Zion National Park. We had dinner with them and talked until about 9 pm—late for us.

September 26: We were up before dawn, about 5:30 am, to catch the sunrise light on the Queen’s Garden Trail. Hiked down into Queen’s Garden working all the way as the light was spectacular. Photographed in the Queen’s Garden until about 9 am, then back up to the car, showered, packed up and set out for Capitol Reef about 10:30 am. Drove down into the Paria Valley—now called Bryce Valley—around Tropic, Utah. Tropic is just awakening from its sleepy, remote, Mormon character to tourist awareness. However, only the main “street” has changed adding a drive-in and frosty store. The road is now paved all the way to Escalante, Utah—not just paved, but realigned to “modern” engineering high standards—70 mph in most places. It circles around the Table Cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau and crosses several layered ridges and streaks across some broad open plateau tops to reach Escalante. Several roads beckoned. One that looked interesting was the one to Hole In The Rock, which we will take before we finish this project—maybe on this trip or perhaps next Spring. About eight miles East of Escalante the dirt started and except for a stretch on top of a ridge several miles long near Boulder, Utah, it was much like it was five or six years ago, though the surface this time was in better shape and some of the notable grades have been eliminated.

Landscape Photography Blogger Postscript

Philip Hyde made four dye transfer prints of “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 1963″ in the early 1970s and two more in 1987 when Drylands: The Deserts Of North America came out. See the blog post, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1” for more about dye transfer printing and “Philip Hyde At Home In The Wilds 1” for an interview in which Philip Hyde talks about his approach to dye transfer printing. Now for the first time since Kodak discontinued the manufacture of dye transfer printing materials in the early 1990s, “Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park” is available as a color fine art print in archival digital print form. Also for a limited time “Formations From Bryce Point” is available at introductory New Release Pricing. For more about Philip Hyde’s connection to the Southwest see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.”

Winter Snow On Desert Landscapes

March 7th, 2011

Angular Boulders, Snow Covered Mesa, San Rafael Swell, Utah, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

A road trip across the Western United States can take many courses. Often when driving from the Denver area to Northern California people travel north on Interstate 25 into Wyoming, then take Interstate 80 west into Utah and Nevada. This route is the fastest by a little over an hour, but it is more developed and goes through flatter, less interesting country than other alternatives. The route I like is direct and nearly as fast, but much more scenic and remote. I take Interstate 70 west from Denver over the Rocky Mountains, down into the Colorado River canyon, through Grand Junction and into Utah’s Canyon Country, past the turnoffs for Moab and Canyonlands National Park, Arches, The Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion National Parks, over the San Rafael Swell, until Interstate 70 meets Interstate 15. To read more about one special trip to some of these destinations see the blog post, “Earth Day Celebration Of Ardis And Philip Hyde And Canyonlands.” I then go south on Interstate 15 a short way to Beaver, Utah, turn west on Utah State Highway 21, go through Milford and into Nevada, onto US Highway 50, the “Loneliest Highway in America,” past Great Basin National Park and Wheeler Peak, through Ely, Eureka, Austin, Reno and into California.

Wheeler Peak With Snow Streamer, Great Basin National Park, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

This itinerary takes me on a traverse of one of the world’s most majestic mountain ranges, the Rocky Mountains, climbing to over 11,000 feet at the top of Loveland Pass. It winds through the enchanting headwaters and upper canyons of the Colorado River and the verdant foothill farmland of the Rocky Mountains’ West Slope. From the great heights of the Rockies, Interstate 70 drops all the way to 4,075 feet when it crosses the Green River in Utah. It then rises again to cross the plateaus, canyons, hoodoos, monuments, bluffs, arches and other spectacular formations of the Colorado Plateau of Southern Utah. With all of this breath-taking scenery left behind, many people consider Nevada plain, but Nevada has an elusive beauty of its own with the roller coaster traverse of Basin and Range, mountains and valleys. Nevada is one of the places where the West lives up to its reputation for wide open spaces. With up to 80-mile straightaways, Highway 50 crosses huge dried up prehistoric glacial Pleistocene lake beds, sometimes still in the form of mud flats, sometimes sprinkled with sage, sometimes lush with grasslands and ranches. Then the “Loneliest Highway In America” roller coaster ride makes a few turns and rises over mountain ranges between the giant valleys. Each mountain range sequesters its own secret old mines, ghost towns, rugged canyons, forests, mountain meadows, rushing streams, snow-capped peaks, small settlements, ranches and mineral deposits. US Highway 50 is a road tripper’s dream, but its beauty is somewhat hidden and subtle, it does not blare at the traveler, but whispers like the ghosts lurking on its dusty side roads.

Juniper Tree Skeleton Along US Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

In the winter any route from Colorado to Northern California is susceptible to sudden storms, icy roads, blizzards, bitter below zero daytime high temperatures, heavy snows and snow drifts. Driving is risky with few guard rails on the steep, winding, approaches to the passes over the many mountain ranges that run north-south and all but block passage to the unprepared traveler. Any venture through this near wilderness, must not be taken lightly in the winter season and must be planned around the weather. Such adventures must be well-timed to avoid heavy winter storms that pass from West to East across the open expanses and often leave unwary motorists stranded for days in their vehicles waiting for assistance that may never come, or at the least may come too late.

So far I have been fortunate most of the time to have good traveling days even in the winter, with only minor snow or rain showers while on the road. One time I drove in horizontal snow with up to five inches on the pavement, not able to see far beyond the front of the hood, just trying to limp to the next town with a motel. In mid November 2010, a low pressure system hit the Western states. This storm system produced heavy snows and temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit in mountain towns in Northern California and in Boulder, Colorado, as well as -25 degree weather on the Colorado Plateau in Utah. The roads were treacherous enough to question making any kind of journey at all, but according to the Doppler radar a window of opportunity opened up where it looked as though I could leave Boulder, Colorado and make it over Loveland Pass, out of the Rocky Mountains and down into lower terrain in Utah before the next major rack of clouds and snow hit. Sure enough I made it over the Rockies and into Utah by evening sailing clear. I imagined that I would drive as far as I could before the storm hit, find a good place to stop and wait out the system’s passing over night.

Dried Desert Flowers In The Snow, Along US Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

As I breezed through Green River, Utah the sky was still completely clear and full of bright stars and moonlight. From Green River it is about 104 wide open empty miles to the next town of any kind, Salina, Utah. About half-way to Salina the wind started to blow much harder and clouds began to dot the sky. Within another 10 miles tiny flakes of snow mixed in with the high winds. I was still about 40 miles from Salina. As I drove directly into the storm, the snow fell heavier and heavier. Soon it was piling up on the pavement. Fortunately, I was in my truck, which is four-wheel-drive and good at negotiating snow, unless the roads are also icy due to cold temperatures as was the case that night. By this time I was about 30 miles from civilization in Salina, the snow had become very heavy and the road was obliterated beyond recognition, even though Interstate 70 is a four lane freeway in that area. I thought about stopping, but decided I would press on because I didn’t want to get buried in snow on the side of the road. Needless to say, the last 25 miles were very slow and half the time I was merely hoping I was mostly on the road. Apparently the locals and other travelers had turned off for the night and retreated from the storm. I was nearly alone on the Interstate. Then far ahead I spotted a lone big rig truck plowing its way through the mess. I drove up behind and used the big truck’s taillights as a guide, hoping that his sense of the road would prove accurate. This went on for what seemed like hours and then we came up on a snow plow. The truck and I had been going about 10 miles an hour, but the snow plow was going about five miles an hour. The last 12 miles took 2 1/2 hours. I have never been more happy to see a freeway off ramp than that night in Salina. As I slowed even more to nose down the off ramp, my truck began to slide to one side. Fortunately I was able to correct and stay on what was left of the off ramp. I fish-tailed to the right, across and up what looked like the driveway to a local motel. The cheesy, low-budget room with internet access, color TV, half-broken wooden veneer furniture and musty bedding seemed like the coziest room I had ever slept in.

Rabbit Tracks And Shadows Along US Highway 50, Nevada, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Morning came quickly as I had arrived late and hit the hay around 2:00 am. I dragged myself to the 1970s era window curtain, pulled it open and beheld a new world. There was about six inches of new snow, but the skies were blue. I waited until around 9:30 am to get rolling, hoping that by then the snow plows would have made a few passes. Once I made it onto the freeway, both lanes were clear and the slow lane was even half dry. I didn’t loose any time as I drove off down the Interstate at near normal travel speed. Driving late into the night was now taking its toll on my body, but my persistence paid off as I had smooth sailing nearly all day except some snow patches on the road on the high passes and some slow-going around Ely, Nevada where there was still a lot of snow on US Highway 50. The real payoff came in the form of the gorgeous scenery freshly covered with new snow. I was on a deadline and couldn’t stop too often, but I did allow myself to stop for as many photographs as I possibly could dare. I made it to my meeting late, but it was quite a day photographing along the “Loneliest Highway in America,” well worth driving one evening in a blizzard and risking getting stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the high desert in the snow.

Images Of The Southwest Portfolio Foreword By Philip Hyde

April 26th, 2010

Plateau Edge, Southern Utah, 1974 by Philip Hyde. One of 12 photographs printed as dye transfer prints in the “Images of The Southwest” portfolio. “Images of the Southwest” was intended as a limited edition of 50, which in itself was a collosal undertaking. Making 50 X 12 = 600 dye transfer prints by hand was no easy task. However, at some point there was trouble with the distributor. Philip Hyde took the sale of the portfolio back over after 31 sold and no more portfolios were distributed or made thereafter.

Images of the Southwest: Foreword by Philip Hyde

The Southwest is a very special place for me. Over the many years of travel and photography in the region, there has been a certain evolution in my work from communication of a sense of place, to a search for the essences that express the whole region’s uniqueness.

My method of working has long been a kind of passing through the country, hoping to make discoveries. I want to let the country speak to me without my imposing preconceptions on it. A slow pace is important in this. And, since I can be only a temporary visitor, walking and camping for a month or a season, I must keep going back. I can’t get enough of that warm color, sense enough of the remote wilderness that still lingers in places.

Here the Planet’s basic structure has been laid bare, as if to serve better the consummate artistry of erosion’s creative force, that is even now enlarging its catalog of supreme works.

At the extremes of the year in Summer or Winter, the country may retreat behind a screen of seeming hostility, as with the heat haze of Summer noons, or the bone-chilling cold of blizzard winds that hurl sparse snowflakes across the unbroken spaces. But even then, the country invites you to come again, in Spring or Fall when these ephemeral seasons supply the brightest accents of nature’s scene. This elusive quality is underlined by an increasing awareness that the land’s vulnerable beauty is fading under the onslaught of development.

Emerson wrote: “A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely the love of beauty…. But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald of inward and eternal beauty.”

Will the “inward and eternal beauty” thus heralded develop in men soon enough to preserve its well-springs? The question evokes a feeling of urgency in what was once called “the land of room enough and time enough.”

SEE ALSO THE BLOG POST, “The Legend of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1.”

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.”)

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 3

March 3rd, 2010

Whirlpool Canyon, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah-Colorado, 1951, by Philip Hyde.

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, “Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 2“)

The Escalante Overlook is the first branch off of the Harper’s Corner Road. Today there are signs at the Escalante Overlook discussing air pollution, its effects and what average people can do to decrease it. It is surprising to find signs on this subject in Dinosaur, the remotest National Monument in the lower 48 states, but a thick sea of haze nearly always sits on the southern horizon, carrying 500 miles from Southern California or occasionally from Texas or Mexico. The signs also show nearby copper smelters, oil refineries, and both coal and oil-fired power plants where pollution originates. One sign says, “If each commuter car carried just one more person we would save 600,000 gallons of gas a day. Welcome to Dinosaur National Monument.” See this article: “Road Transportation Is The Greatest Culprit In Global Warming.”

When the Bureau of Reclamation first proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument and downstream at Glen Canyon, in the Grand Canyon and at many other sites on the Colorado watershed, they claimed hydropower was clean energy. This has subsequently proven incorrect as scientists have discovered that reservoirs, especially in the hot Southwest, radiate greenhouse gases. To read about some of what was lost when Glen Canyon was dammed, see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde.”

At another overlook an unimproved trail winds out to the canyon rim. Cholla Cactus wedges between parted layers of lichen-covered sandstone. Skunkweed and sage hold to small troughs of soil. To the right the cliff drops a dizzying 1,500 feet straight down to the steep slopes dotted with the green of stunted Douglas Fir and Juniper that run down to the edge of the inner gorge of bare rocks and wind-swept stone domes. Lichen varies from black to gray to burnt orange, yellow-green, gray-green and many combinations, matching the layers of sandstone. Robins and a Chickadee call softly. Back from the cliff edge the gray twisted wood of dead Junipers and Pinon Pines shelters Rudbeckia, a tall yellow star-shaped flower. Today Dinosaur remains one of the least developed National Monuments in the country. Most of the roads are still unpaved and few are graded and graveled.

Following the plateau skirting the canyons, on 26 miles of part dirt and part pavement, between monument headquarters and the Echo Park turnoff, the weather changes four or five times. At one moment the white puffy clouds with plenty of blue sky between look harmless. In the next moment after topping the plateau, a low, dark bank of clouds approaches. It is hard to tell at what speed the clouds are approaching, when they will arrive, how soon they might produce rain, or whether they are headed toward the Echo Park road that cuts steeply down through long, precipitous alluvial slopes and sandstone cliffs.

In dry weather, the hardened mud-slide road is more visible and easily examined from the turnoff as it descends. The beginning of the route consists of mostly gravel and seems easily passable, perhaps even in rain. The roughest, most rutted part of the road is deceptively out of sight and turns to clay as slippery as axel grease when wet. In the space of 15 minutes the sky shifts and changes several times from threatening to clearing. Before a rain any two-wheel-drive car could make it down the 13 miles, but not back up—rain could trap an unfortunate sojourner in Echo Park for days.

In 1950 Richard Leonard served both on the Sierra Club Board and as a leader of the Wilderness Society. Olaus Murie and Margaret Murie were also Wilderness Society leaders. After a meeting of Wilderness Society leaders in Denver, Richard Leonard, Olaus Murie his wife Margaret Murie visited Dinosaur National Monument. They made it out of Echo Park without incident and they were greatly impressed by its scenery. The next year when Richard Leonard and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower sent my father, landscape photographer Philip Hyde on assignment to Dinosaur National Monument, Dad almost did not make it out of Echo Park.

When Richard Leonard returned to the Sierra Club Headquarters in San Francisco he and David Brower, then Fifth Executive Board Member, agreed to team up to work on the Dinosaur battle. They had been climbing friends for a long time. But they were preoccupied with many battles in the early 1950s and the Dinosaur National Monument issue sat on a shelf for a year until after David Brower met Philip Hyde. They met, Dad said, “Probably in Tuolumne Meadows, when Dave was coming through and Ardis and I were custodians at the Sierra Club Lodge. I used to think that Ansel introduced me to Dave, but Dave said no, that I met him before that.”

“That was the beginning of a very long association with Dave of making books and working with the Sierra Club too.” Dad made sure he did not work “for” the Sierra Club. He was a freelancer on assignment. “They managed to scrape together small amounts of cash and I would go off on a project.” Dad said. “In the case of my first trip in July l950, Dave invited me to accompany the 6 week High Trip, which looking back now was very important for me to do.” Following the High Trip, a signature, or series, of Dad’s photographs graced the pages of the Sierra Club Bulletin. It was Dad’s first publication and was widely acclaimed. That paved the path for David Brower to suggest to the Sierra Club Board that Dad go to Dinosaur and bring back some of the beauty.

On assignment from the Sierra Club in June 1951, Dad had difficulty making it out of Echo Park even in dry weather. Dad said that when he and my mother, Ardis Hyde, tried to climb the steep hill out of Echo Park in their 1949 Studebaker Champion, they could not make it up the steep section above the inner canyon.

“We had a lot of camping gear, food, photography equipment and God knows what else,” Dad said. “Champion was notoriously underpowered. I got up as far as I could and unloaded the car partially. We took what was left on up to where the road leveled off a bit. Ardis stood by the upper half of the load while I went back for the rest. That was the kind of thing you had to be prepared to do in that country because there isn’t any help out there.” Ardis and Philip Hyde worked as a team and Mom never balked at any challenge nature presented. At Dad’s picture stops, Mom slipped right out into the deep grasses or onto the steep hillsides, observing and identifying all she saw. She was a keen birder and a self-trained botanist.

Dad and Mom drove from their home in Greenville in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northeastern California about 850 miles to Dinosaur National Monument with only a verbal request from the Sierra Club and a promise to pay Dad’s expenses plus one dollar per print or published landscape photograph. He was not long out of photography school at the California School of Fine Arts where he studied under Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston, with guest lecturers including Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model and other photography greats from 1946 to 1950. Philip Hyde joined the Sierra Club in 1946, a year before his marriage. Ardis Hyde joined the Sierra Club the year she married Dad. They were married four years when she accompanied him on this, his first photographic assignment to the dry Colorado Plateau. The young couple had become acquainted while attending the University of California Berkeley and found they had much in common including a shared passion for nature. Both of them grew up camping under the stars, Philip in the Boy Scouts and with his family; Ardis with her family, her father especially loved the outdoors. Later, the couple imparted that love to me, their only son.

Dad’s wilderness photographs in time would appear in more environmental campaigns than any other landscape photographer. Dinosaur was the first major campaign, and to this day Dad’s image of Steamboat Rock is one of his most published. “That photograph became a symbol of the fight to save Dinosaur National Monument,” Dad explained. “Steamboat Rock was the symbol representing Dinosaur long before I photographed it.” Dad made his photograph from the end of Echo Park where the road enters, near the cliff across the field and opposite Steamboat Rock, probably not far from the old cabin, where the night Ranger now stays.

Today, the field is home to at least one four-foot long rattlesnake. I saw the distinctive diamond-shaped skin pattern and rattles as the snake slithered away when I was stalking Dad’s picture site. He made the photograph with his 5X7 Deardorf View Camera. He framed the picture with some of the waist-high grasses in the foreground and the dry desert grasses only an inch or two long stretched away toward the Cottonwood-lined river and the 800 foot tall Steamboat Rock looming over it all. As with his later landscape masterpieces, Dad’s use of foreground detail invites the viewer to all but step into the photograph.

At the upstream end of Echo Park the Yampa River joins the Green River just out of sight on the far side of Steamboat Rock. On the near side of the giant monolith, the narrow 1,000 foot deep gorge opens into Echo Park, essentially a small valley lush with cottonwoods, willows, native grasses and wildlife. Off to the left of the road at the downstream end of the valley lies a small 17-site campground with running water. A gravel road leads down to the river for float trip access. At the water’s edge Steamboat Rock dominates the view. Its hulking nearly 800 foot tall mass of vertical sandstone rises directly out of the far side of the swirling waters of the Green. The swollen river slows, reflecting glimpses of red sandstone and shattering the images as the torrent churns again naturally free and unfettered.

From the boat landing the proposed dam site is almost visible just out of sight where the river dives back between narrow sheer walls that could make dam construction easy. The boat landing would have been buried under 500 feet of water. Echo Park potentially could have become the ideal water storage tank, though its scenery would be destroyed, not enhanced as the Bureau of Reclamation claimed. Only the top 300 feet of Steamboat Rock would have shown and the sense of the size and grandeur of the formation would have vanished. With the monolith dwarfed, visitors today would be left with the reek of motorboat gasoline and a cesspool of settling mud and evaporating water.

Some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire region would have been inundated along with Echo Park. The road into Echo Park through Sand Canyon, along shady Pool Creek and the Pool Creek Petroglyphs, would all have been flooded. In Sand Canyon the sandstone forms into cake-layered tan-gray rock terraces. Over the terraces and alternating rounded and undercut layers, the black lichen stains run vertically where water seeps. In the horizontal ledges Junipers cling to pockets of earth. At intervals the soft underlayers cut far under harder layers to form overhangs and caves. A few of these have collapsed or partially collapsed roofs forming the beginnings of future arches. All of this would have been lost.

Dinosaur National Monument contains 200,000 acres, predominately canyons. Most of the canyons would have been flooded with the dams in place, virtually eliminating the primary scenic feature. The two proposed dams, at Split Mountain and at Echo Park, would have inundated about 91 out of 101 river miles in the monument, Sue Walter explains in her Ranger talk at Dinosaur National Monument Headquarters. She reminds the listener that the Bureau of Reclamation did have a dam built upstream from Dinosaur’s northern boundary, on the Wyoming border at Flaming Gorge, but the Yampa River remains the only undammed tributary to the Colorado River system. Because of this the Yampa River is the only surviving habitat for four endangered fish species: the Humpback Chub, Razorback Sucker, Colorado River Squawfish and Bonytail Chub. Dams stop the flooding that maintains natural flora and fauna and creates backwaters for spawning.

Wishing to photograph some of the wildest parts of the Yampa River and Green River, Ardis and Philip Hyde explored the Dinosaur National Monument canyons the whole month of June, 1951.

In a letter from the field to Richard Leonard, Secretary on the Sierra Club Board of Directors, Dad wrote, “At Mantle’s Ranch we wandered for eight days and left feeling like we’d only scratched the surface.” Mantle’s Ranch is in Castle Park, another verdant opening of the canyon into valley, upstream from Echo Park. The Mantles were early homesteaders before the monument. Into Mantle’s Ranch Mom and Dad followed a landscape architect in a jeep, who was investigating possible campground sites and other potential improvements for the Park Service. Fortunately a Park Ranger followed along behind them in a green Charger.

Dad began to have misgivings he said when, “We dropped down into most aptly named Hell’s Canyon. Champion’s undersides began utter protests and finally after half-a-dozen very rough creek crossings, downright refused to go any farther, conked out and rolled back a little before I could stop and we crunched on a rock. Next we knew, gas was gushing from the wound…

(CONTINUED IN THE NEXT BLOG POST IN THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”)