Glen Canyon Portfolio 2

March 17th, 2011 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Glen Canyon Portfolio 2

Photographer’s Comment From The Original Vintage Black And White Glen Canyon Portfolio

Continued from the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1.”

By Philip Hyde

Reflections, Fronds Gelees Canyon, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1962 by Philip Hyde. From the original Glen Canyon Portfolio.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here or view the entire Glen Canyon Portfolio. The first 20 images are from the original Glen Canyon Portfolio. The photographs that follow those are scans of the other best 8X10 vintage black and white prints.)

It is ironic that Glen Canyon has come to be known as the “place no one knew.” It was well known by those tireless engineers of the 1930s and 1940s who combed the West searching out all possible dam sites. It was known by the National Park Service as early as the 1930s when a proposal was made for an Escalante National Park to Harold Ickes, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Interior. Such a park would have encompassed all of Glen Canyon and many of its tributaries, but the proposal succumbed to the ambitions of the dam builders, as was revealed when the Park Service published Survey of the Recreational Resources of the Colorado River Basin in 1950. The survey lists all the potential dam sites and accompanying “recreational” plans, while potential areas for preservation are conspicuously absent. It is only fair to say here, that while the Park Service knew Glen Canyon’s qualities, its voice for preservation was stifled in the Interior Department where the Bureau of Reclamation had become the powerful tail that wagged the dog.

Glen Canyon was also known by legions of Boy Scouts who kayaked or rafted through and by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who went through and on their own (anyone could, for Glen Canyon’s Colorado River was mild) or with early professional river runners like Moki Mac, Georgie White, Bus Hatch, Pat Reilly, and others. The place wasn’t unknown. Its partisans just couldn’t be heard over the roar of political power.

It may seem further irony to some that while Glen Canyon went down the drain, another area survived because it had a boundary line drawn around it.

When the bill to authorize the Upper Colorado River Storage Project was in Congress, it was opposed by conservationists and actually stopped, temporarily. As constituted then, it would have authorized two dams in Dinosaur National Monument at Echo Park and in Split Mountain, in addition to Flaming Gorge dam on the Green River just north of Dinosaur, Glen Canyon Dam, and several smaller projects.

It is important to note that conservation in the mid-1950s was far from the strong and united force it is today, and it seemed doubtful whether Glen Canyon and the two Dinosaur dams could have been kept out of the final project. The spectre of opening the national parks to dam projects must have heavily influenced the conservationists’ decision when they finally agreed to withdraw opposition to the Upper Colorado River Storage Project if the dams in Dinosaur National Monument were deleted. This done, Congress authorized the Project—a political decision made to build another big dam on a river that could not adequately supply the first one. The best that can be said for the loss of Glen Canyon is that more “big dam foolishness,” as Elmer Davis called it, eventually aroused enough opposition to help stop two more dams proposed for the Grand Canyon a few years later.

Though I consider Glen Canyon’s loss tragic, I am certain that had dams been authorized in Dinosaur National Monument, no national park area would have been secure. The precedent would have opened the gates to at least eight national park areas, including Grand Canyon, where Bureau of Reclamation or Corps of Engineers dam proposals were already on drawing boards.

As things worked out, the building of Glen Canyon dam became literally, the high water mark of the Bureau’s power, and it has receded ever since—for which lovers of the land everywhere can be grateful. –But not complacent; for old dam projects, like old soldiers, never die; they just lie low until revival looks safer.

The reservoir behind Glen Canyon dam has been called “the most beautiful man made lake in the world.” That should tell you something of the quality of the wild canyon when you realize what you see today is but a remnant.

The scenic climax of Glen Canyon was along the Colorado River and at, or near, the tributaries’ junctions with the river. Cutting down to the river’s base level, the small streams (and flash floods) created grottos and waterfalls, carved great vaulted chambers, and deeply incised meanders in the final plunge to the master stream. These places of magnificent rock sculpture were among the first to go when the reservoir started rising, and they now lie hundreds of feet under water. Gone are the river and stream edges softened by riparian vegetation—grass, moss, even large trees where enough soil accumulated—willows, gambel’s oak, cottonwood, box elder. Gone, too, is the remoteness and feeling of adventure, reduced to the commonplace of reservoir recreation by gasoline power, noise, and smoke.

Though Glen Canyon gave its name to the dam, it is like the name inscribed on a tombstone that can only hint at the life that was. So, this portfolio hints at what was, to trigger memory in those who knew and to celebrate the life and beauty that was there for those who didn’t know.

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 first 20 images in the website portfolio are the same as the original Glen Canyon Portfolio. The photographs that follow those are scans of the other best 8X10 vintage black and white prints. Click on the title here: Glen Canyon Portfolio to view the images. Enjoy.

This series on the Glen Canyon Portfolio continued with the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 3.”



  1. Guy Tal says:

    One of my greatest regrets is that I did not get to visit Glen Canyon before it was flooded. Thank you for sharing these wonderful images. Between your dad’s work and that of Eliot Porter, the beauty of the canyon is still available to us. We can only hope that sane water management policies triumph and the canyon will again be restored within our lifetimes.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Guy. Don’t forget classic Southwestern landscape photographer Tad Nichols. He has that beautiful large black and white book of his vintage photographs called, “Glen Canyon: Images of a Lost World.” Let’s hope they will remove the ugly concrete plug in Glen Canyon while we’re around.

  3. Richard Wong says:

    Truly amazing scenery in your dad’s portfolio. It is appalling to think of how much destruction we’re capable of doing for the sake of “growth”. Hopefully lessons have been learned and we don’t do something like this again.

  4. Hi Richard, I appreciate seeing your input here. Glen Canyon does contain spectacular scenery, doesn’t it? What a shame.

  5. Tim Parkin says:

    A very well written and engaging story and some very nice photography. Thanks for making these available.

  6. Hi Tim, thank you on behalf of Dad. He was a good writer and obviously the photographs have already stood for themselves over many years in national collections. We need to work on getting them into collections in the UK though.

  7. pj says:

    I did enjoy, though only briefly today — it’s a beautiful collection of photographs. Thank you for posting them.

    When the dust settles and we’re all situated here I will take some time to really sit down to enjoy and appreciate them. It is a truly great portfolio of work David.

  8. Hello PJ, I appreciate you taking time out of what you are doing to take a look. Glad you like the photographs of Glen Canyon. Glen Canyon, as you know, is an inspiration to many who work on environmental causes and of course is the reason the conservationists were able to rally support from all over the world to stop the Grand Canyon from being dammed.

  9. simon casson says:

    A nice piece. I love the Colorado Plateau. Was unable to ride through Glen due to the ’63 dam project. We were on the Outlaw Trail, which as everyone knows, used the Colorado trajectory down from the Roost and edged the Painted Desert.

  10. Hi Simon, thank you for looking me up again. I am honored to have a comment from an authentic horse pack guide of the Old West. Perhaps you would rather remain anonymous, but since you did put in your link to “Outlaw Trails: Ultimate Horse Riding Adventure Holidays In North And South America,” I would like readers here to know that you are also the author of the book, “Riding the Outlaw Trail in the Footsteps of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which chronicles your ride with Richard Adamson and the Western horse pack families that Robert Redford spent time with in preparation for the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and his book on the Outlaw Trail. The ride on the Outlaw Trail started in Anapra, Monte Cristo Rey, Mexico and carried all the way to north of Malta, Canada. You also rode for a week on Robber’s Roost with the famous rancher A. C. Ekker, who took my father, mother and I into the Maze, Canyonlands in 1968 when I was almost three years old. I may still be today the youngest child to ride horseback into the Maze. I rode on the front of my mother’s saddle. A. C. Ekker also became friends with Robert Redford when Robert Redford researched “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and his book on the Outlaw Trail. As you know Simon, A. C. Ekker became even more of a legend than he already had been when he died in a plane crash into a Butte while flying low and looking for strays, rounding up the last free range cattle on the last cattle roundup off of Canyonlands National Park when the National Park Service in 2000 terminated the last permits for the ranching families who had been grazing those lands for the better part of a century. Perhaps some day you will make some more history if they drain Glen Canyon and you mount an expedition through the fabled canyons.

  11. Thank you for the history and the photographs. It’s sad when progress overruns such magnificence.

  12. Hi Allen, thank you for your comment and welcome to Landscape Photography Blogger. I just checked out your website and the variety of beautiful imagery all made without ANY Photoshop. It is great to see some photographers like you keeping film, large format and medium format photography alive.

  13. Mark says:

    Nicely written Piece David. I am right there with Guy – through your dad’s photographs we can still experience it and remain in awe. The image accompanying this post is stunning, though it looks much better in the larger version in the gallery. Would like to see it larger still.

  14. Hi Mark, thank you for the comment. Hopefully some day we will have a Philip Hyde exhibition in Michigan, or perhaps more likely in Chicago, which has already been done several times. Then you will see “Reflections, Fronds Gelees Canyon, Glen Canyon” as a large print. It is one of Dad’s best and is often part of many gallery and museum exhibitions.

  15. Greg Russell says:

    David, this is such a nice collection of images. Others have lamented the loss of the Glen Canyon ecosystem–and I sympathize with them–but I see the other side as well. In building the dam, we squashed (tamed?) a set of canyons that by all accounts were rugged…wild.

    Many of us head to these wild places for the adventure. What adventure is there to be had there now? It seems that in taking away our ecosystem, they also took another, less tangible, part of us as well.


  16. Point well made Greg. My father might respond with something grumpy about the “adventure crowd.” I understand what you are saying. Dad heard the word “adventure” as used by the recreationists, the off-road-vehicle mob and just about anyone who is selling travel. I understand that you are using the term in a more spiritual sense, as an intangible yearning.

  17. Such a powerful set of photographs, David. I am so thankful to your father for taking them and for seeing them the way that he did.


  18. Hi Sharon, thank you. I wish my father could hear the many kind compliments that his photographs receive, though I believe he heard a few while he was around too. I appreciate your discerning eye, Sharon. Sometimes it takes another artist to fully appreciate the best art produced by others.

  19. What happens to special places with perceived development value by economists and planners that is totally in contradiction to their true values is appalling. While a very different circumstance, locally we had four beautiful rural towns flooded in the 1920’s to supply Boston with water. Ironically, it is also used for recreation and has been called an “accidental wilderness” which is such a misnomer as it is heavily managed. We seem to go through spasms of concern and lack of it through the ages for our wild places. Unfortunately, the spasms of lack of concern cannot usually be easily undone. It is unlikely that our Quabbin Reservoir will ever be drained, but wouldn’t it be great if the Canyon was once again!

  20. Hi Steve, thank you for your comment. I find your local dam foolishness interesting and saddening. Apparently a similar story has been played out all over the country. Many of these dams have been removed with the growing movement against dams. Anti-dam sentiment seems to increase as knowledge about how wasteful and destructive to vital river ecosystems most dams are.

  21. After writing that, I realize I neglected to mention how inspiring and beautiful are the images. I especially like the intimate shots such as the one you chose for the top of the page with so much added depth in the reflection.

  22. Hi Steve, I appreciate and accept the compliments on behalf of my father. I know you said you have been reading here, which I also appreciate, and I am happy that you have made these comments. So, officially I welcome you. I took a look at your blog and like what you are doing as well. You have some fine images yourself and they are tastefully processed and presented.

  23. Thanks for the kind words, David.

  24. Best wishes, Steve, and thanks to you for your participation and kind words as well.

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