Here was the dilemma:
Which of these two stunningly beautiful, one of a kind, world class, historically priceless, irreplaceable, works of nature should the US government totally sacrifice, obliterate and destroy, so no future generations would ever see it?
Choose one: A or B?
“A” is the stunningly beautiful Steamboat Rock in the Echo Park district of the Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado.
“B” is the stunningly beautiful Glen Canyon in the Vermillion Cliffs of southeastern and southcentral Utah and northcentral Arizona.
Both of these were discovered by John Wesley Powell and described in his book “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.”
The problem was this: after Powell’s death defying journey down the unknown Colorado river in 1869, the mighty Colorado river became vitally important to all residents of the Southwest United States as the major source of life sustaining water.
The US government has harnessed the power of the Colorado by creating Hoover Dam, where the Colorado River water is blocked from its natural flow and backs up into a huge reservoir, named Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, Nevada.
From this point, the water flow is controlled as it continues downstream, sustaining communities throughout the Southwest.
The tamed Colorado River sends water to cities from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, California. As a byproduct, as the water passes through Hoover Dam, it powers giant generators, creating electrical power.
The US government guaranteed the delivery of water to the various stakeholders. However, the Government overestimated the amount of future water available. So, unfortunately, the Government promised more than it could deliver.
Government bureaucrats theorized that if one lake could successfully store Colorado River water, two lakes could store even more water.
The question was: where to locate the second lake.
Naturally, with all the empty lands in the West, the Government chose the most beautiful, irreplaceable Steamboat Rock, in the Echo Park district of the Dinosaur National Monument in Northwest Colorado.
The choice shocked conservationists, environmentalists and all interested in our National Parks.
To save the Colorado River at Steamboat Rock from being dammed and flooding over the stunning Echo Park area, conservationists had to find another choice…and they did, far, far down river, in the middle of the vast desert. The stunning Glen Canyon was their choice. Some say it was sacrificed.
“Glen Canyon died, and I was partly responsible for its needless death,” Sierra Club president, David R. Brower wrote in Sierra Magazine in 1997.
“But as surely as we made a mistake years ago, we can reverse it now. We can drain Lake Powell and let the Colorado River run through the dam that created it…”
Lake Powell, the giant reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam, was named for John Wesley Powell, the Colorado River explorer. (See pictures of Powell’s Exploration and hear his narrative :
When I last visited the lake, the view was deceptive. I felt as if I were in a vast hot desert, in the middle of which was this out of place, huge expanse of water with docks, houseboats and tourist facilities.
I had to stare at the lake for a moment to fully comprehend that all that water, stretching out endlessly, was actually covering and drowning one of America’s most beautiful canyons, buried far below the surface by tons of water.
Two years ago, I wrote about how the drought had lowered the water levels of both Lake Mead and Lake Powell. As I flew over Lake Mead, I could look down and see the rings, like bathtub rings, circling the lake, showing where the water once was and is no longer. It is reported that Lake Mead water is now so low, it is beneath the water intake for the City of Las Vegas. Lake Mead could use a lot more water, but with the drought, nature is not providing it.
That needed water just might be in Lake Powell, covering Glen Canyon. Environmentalists have proposed that Lake Mead be filled with Lake Powell water. If Glen Canyon were drained, it would once more be visible. Visitors could once again appreciate the amazing natural rock and land formations, which are now covered with water.
Under one plan, the great Dam spanning Glen Canyon would remain in place. The huge Dam’s diversion tunnels would send 200,000 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Lake Mead, removing those “bathtub rings.”
Is it possible to do this without creating harm? I really hope so, because America is such a beautiful country, I’d hate to think that our most spectacular and beautiful places could remain destroyed by mistake.
If you haven’t read Powell’s wonderful book, “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons,” you can listen to our audiobook of his historic narrative, embellished by many of the sounds of a river adventure. You can download it directly into your phone from Audible.com:
If you would like to give someone a gift of our audiobook, or donate it to a school library, it is available in CD and Mp3CD formats, in stereo, right here on our website.
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