Glen Canyon Should Stay Drowned

Frederick Reimers, Outside on May 26, 2017

I hate Lake Powell as much as anyone. Since 1963, the Colorado River has pooled behind 710-foot Glen Canyon Dam, flooding not only 186 miles of serene Glen Canyon but also a labyrinth of grottoes, slot canyons, and oases like Cathedral of the Desert, Ribbon Canyon, and Dungeon Canyon. Some have called Glen Canyon the lost national park. For many, it is a sunken Atlantis and, worse, a symbol of man’s hubris-and a reminder to fight like hell on matters of conservation.

It also swamped 18 rapids in Cataract Canyon, farther upstream, where I raft-guided in the 1990s. Instead of shooting legendary drops like Imperial and Dark Canyon on the weeklong trip’s final days, we stalled out on the greasy lake. Our outboard motor broke the wilderness idyll as we puttered along for 30 miles above the drowned rapids.

We'd talk about Edward Abbey's idea to detonate a houseboat full of explosives against the dam’s upstream face, sending the lake careening down Grand Canyon. When we learned that the reservoir was filling up with silt and would eventually become obsolete, some guides sank their bags of trash in the lake, hoping to hasten the demise of the reservoir we called Lake Foul.

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