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The Damnation of a Canyon By Edward Abbey There was a time when, in my search for essences, I concluded that the canyonland country has no heart. I was wrong. The canyonlands did have a heart, a living heart, and that heart was Glen Canyon and the golden, flowing Colorado River. In the summer of 1959 a friend and I made a float trip in little rubber rafts down through the length of Glen Canyon, starting at Hite and getting off the river near Gunsight Butte — The Crossing of the Fathers. In this voyage of some 150 miles and ten days our only motive power, and all that we needed, was the current of the Colorado River. In the summer and fall of 1967 I worked as a seasonal park ranger at the new Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. During my five-month tour of duty I worked at the main marina and headquarters area called Wahweap, at Bullfrog Basin toward the upper end of the reservoir, and finally at Lee's Ferry downriver from Glen Canyon Dam. In a number of powerboat tours I was privileged to see almost all of our nation's newest, biggest and most impressive "recreational facility." Having thus seen Glen Canyon both before and after what we may fairly call its damnation,  I feel that I am in a position to evaluate the transformation of the region caused by construction of the dam. I have had the unique opportunity to observe firsthand some of the differences between the environment of a free river and a power-plant reservoir.  One should admit at the outset to a certain bias. Indeed I am a "butterfly chaser, googly eyed bleeding heart and wild conservative."  I take a dim view of dams; I find it hard to learn to love cement; I am poorly impressed by concrete aggregates and statistics in the cubic tons. But in this weakness I am not alone, for I belong to that ever-growing number of Americans, probably a good majority now, who have become aware that a fully industrialized, thoroughly urbanized, elegantly computerized social system is not suitable for human habitation. Great for machines, yes. But unfit for people.  Lake Powell, formed by Glen Canyon Dam, is not a lake. It is a reservoir, with a constantly fluctuating water level — more like a bathtub that is never drained than a true lake. As at Hoover (or Boulder) Dam, the sole practical function of this impounded  water is to drive the turbines that generate electricity in the powerhouse in the base of the dam. Recreational benefits were of secondary importance in the minds of those who conceived and built this dam. As a result the volume of water in the reservoir is continually being increased or decreased according to the requirements of the Basin States Compact and the power-grid system of which Glen Canyon Dam is a component. The rising and falling water level entails various consequences. One of the most obvious, well known to all who have seen Lake Mead, is the "bathtub ring" left on the canyon walls after each drawdown of water, or what rangers at Glen Canyon call the Bathtub Formation. This phenomenon is perhaps of no more than aesthetic importance; yet it is sufficient to dispel any illusion one might have, in contemplating the scene, that you are looking upon a natural lake. Of much more significance is the fact that plant life, because of the unstable water line, cannot establish itself on the shores of the reservoir. When the water is low, plant life dies of thirst; when high, it is drowned. Much of the shoreline of the reservoir consists of near-perpendicular sandstone bluffs, where very little flora ever did or ever could subsist, but the remainder includes bays, coves, sloping hills and the many side canyons, where the original plant life has been drowned and new plant life cannot get a foothold. And of course where there is little or no plant life there is little or no animal life. The utter barrenness  of the reservoir shoreline recalls by contrast the aspect of things before the dam, when Glen Canyon formed the course of the untamed Colorado. Then we had a wild and flowing river lined by boulder-strewn shores, sandy beaches, thickets of tamarisk and willow, and glades of cottonwoods. The thickets teemed with songbirds: vireos, warblers, mockingbirds and thrushes. On the open beaches were killdeer, sandpipers, herons, ibises, egrets. Living in grottoes in the canyon walls were swallows, swifts, hawks, wrens and owls. Beaver were common if not abundant: not an evening would pass, in drifting down the river, that we did not see them or at least hear the whack of their flat tails on the water. Above the river shores were the great recessed alcoves where water seeped from the sandstone, nourishing the semitropical hanging gardens of orchid, ivy and columbine, with their associated swarms of insects and bird life. Up most of the side canyons, before damnation, there were springs, sometimes flowing streams, waterfalls and plunge pools — the kind of marvels you can now find only in such small-scale remnants of Glen Canyon as the Escalante area. In the rich flora of these laterals the larger mammals — mule deer, coyote, bobcat, ring-tailed cat, gray fox, kit fox, skunk, badger and others — found a home. When the river was dammed almost all of these things were lost. Crowded out — or drowned and buried under mud. The difference between the present reservoir, with its silent sterile shores and debris-choked side canyons, and the original Glen Canyon, is the difference between death and life. Glen Canyon was alive. Lake Powell is a graveyard. For those who may think I exaggerate the contrast between the former river canyon and the present man-made impoundment, I suggest a trip on Lake Powell followed immediately by another boat trip on the river below the dam. Take a boat from Lee's Ferry up the river to within sight of the dam, then shut off the motor and allow yourself the rare delight of a quiet, effortless drifting down the stream. ln that twelve-mile stretch of living green, singing birds, flowing water and untarnished canyon walls — sights and sounds a million years older and infinitely lovelier than the roar of motorboats — you will rediscover a small and imperfect sampling of the kind of experience that was taken away from everybody when the oligarch  and politicians condemned our river for purposes of their own.  The effects of Glen Canyon Dam also extend downstream, causing changes in the character and ecology of Marble Gorge and Grand Canyon. Because the annual spring floods are now a thing of the past, the shores are becoming overgrown with brush, the rapids are getting worse where the river no longer has enough force to carry away the boulders washed down from the lateral canyons, and the beaches are disappearing, losing sand that is not replaced. Lake Powell, though not a lake, may well be as its defenders assert the most beautiful reservoir in the world. Certainly it has a photogenic backdrop of buttes and mesas projecting above the expansive surface of stagnant  waters where the speedboats, houseboats and cabin cruisers play. But it is no longer a wilderness. It is no longer a place of natural life. It is no longer Glen Canyon. The defenders of the dam argue that the recreational benefits available on the surface of the reservoir outweigh the loss of Indian ruins, historical sites, wildlife and wilderness adventure. Relying on the familiar quantitative  logic of business and bureaucracy, they assert that whereas only a few thousand citizens ever ventured down the river through Glen Canyon, now millions can — or will — enjoy the motorized boating and hatchery fishing available on the reservoir. They will also argue that the rising waters behind the dam have made such places as Rainbow Bridge accessible by powerboat. Formerly you could get there only by walking (six miles). This argument appeals to the wheelchair ethos  of the wealthy, upper-middle-class American slob.  If Rainbow Bridge is worth seeing at all, then by God it should be easily, readily, immediately available to everybody with the money to buy a big powerboat. Why should a trip to such a place be the privilege only of those who are willing to walk six miles? Or if Pikes Peak is worth getting to, then why not build a highway to the top of it so that anyone can get there? Anytime? Without effort? Or as my old man would say, "By Christ, one man's just as good as another — if not a damn sight better."  Or as ex-Commissioner Floyd Dominy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation pointed out poetically in his handsomely engraved and illustrated brochure Lake Powell: Jewel of the Colorado (produced by the U.S. Government Printing Office at our expense): "There's something about a lake which brings us a little closer to God." In this case, Lake Powell, about five hundred feet closer. Eh, Floyd? It is quite true that the flooding of Glen Canyon has opened up to the motorboat explorer parts of side canyons that formerly could be reached only by people able to walk. But the sum total of terrain visible to the eye and touchable by hand and foot has been greatly diminished, not increased. Because of the dam the river is gone, the inner canyon is gone, the best parts of the numerous side canyons are gone — all hidden beneath hundreds of feet of polluted water, accumulating silt, and mounting tons of trash. This portion of Glen Canyon — and who can estimate how many cubic miles were lost? — is no longer accessible to anybody. (Except scuba divers.) And this, do not forget, was the most valuable  part of Glen Canyon, richest in scenery, archaeology, history, flora and fauna. Not only has the heart of Glen Canyon been buried, but many of the side canyons above the fluctuating waterline are now rendered more difficult, not easier, to get into. This because the debris brought down into them by desert storms, no longer carried away by the river, must unavoidably build up in the area where flood meets reservoir. Narrow Canyon, for example, at the head of the impounded waters, is already beginning to silt up and to amass huge quantities of driftwood, some of it floating on the surface, some of it half afloat beneath the surface. Anyone who has tried to pilot a motorboat through a raft of half-sunken logs and bloated dead cows will have his own thoughts on the accessibility of these waters.  Hite Marina, at the mouth of Narrow Canyon, will probably have to be abandoned within twenty or thirty years. After that it will be the turn of Bullfrog Marina. And then Rainbow Bridge Marina. And eventually, inevitably, whether it takes ten centuries or only one, Wahweap. Lake Powell, like Lake Mead, is foredoomed sooner or later to become a solid mass of mud, and its dam a waterfall. Assuming, of course, that either one stands that long. Second, the question of costs. It is often stated that the dam and its reservoir have opened up to the many what was formerly restricted to the few, implying in this case that what was once expensive has now been made cheap. Exactly the opposite is true. Before the dam, a float trip down the river through Glen Canyon would cost you a minimum of seven days' time, well within anyone's vacation allotment, and a capital outlay of about forty dollars — the prevailing price of a two-man rubber boat with oars, available at any army-navy surplus store. A life jacket might be useful but not required, for there were no dangerous rapids in the 150 miles of Glen Canyon. As the name implies, this stretch of the river was in fact so easy and gentle that the trip could be and was made by all sorts of amateurs: by Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, stenographers, schoolteachers, students, little old ladies in inner tubes. Guides, professional boatmen, giant pontoons, outboard motors, radios, rescue equipment were not needed. The Glen Canyon float trip was an adventure anyone could enjoy, on his own, for a cost less than that of spending two days and nights in a Page motel. Even food was there, in the water: the channel catfish were easier to catch and a lot better eating than the striped bass and rainbow trout dumped by the ton into the reservoir these days. And one other thing: at the end of the float trip you still owned your boat, usable for many more such casual and carefree expeditions. What is the situation now? Float trips are no longer possible. The only way left for the exploration of the reservoir and what remains of Glen Canyon demands the use of a powerboat. Here you have three options: (1) buy your own boat and engine, the necessary auxiliary equipment, the fuel to keep it moving, the parts and repairs to keep it running, the permits and licenses required for legal operation, the trailer to transport it; (2) rent a boat; or (3) go on a commerical excursion boat, packed in with other sightseers, following a preplanned itinerary. This kind of play is only for the affluent.  The inescapable conclusion is that no matter how one attempts to calculate the cost in dollars and cents, a float trip down Glen Canyon was much cheaper than a powerboat tour of the reservoir. Being less expensive, as well as safer and easier, the float trip was an adventure open to far more people than will ever be able to afford motorboat excursions in the area now.  What about the "human impact" of motorized use of the Glen Canyon impoundment? We can visualize the floor of the reservoir gradually accumulating not only silt, mud, waterlogged trees and drowned cattle but also the usual debris that is left behind when the urban, industrial style of recreation is carried into the open country. There is also the problem of human wastes. The waters of the wild river were good to drink, but nobody in his senses would drink from Lake Powell. Eventually, as is already sometimes the case at Lake Mead, the stagnant waters will become too foul even for swimming. The trouble is that while some boats have what are called "self-contained" heads, the majority do not; most sewage is disposed of by simply pumping it into the water. It will take a while, but long before it becomes a solid mass of mud Lake Powell ("Jewel of the Colorado") will enjoy a passing fame as the biggest sewage lagoon in the American Southwest. Most tourists will never be able to afford a boat trip on this reservoir, but everybody within fifty miles will be able to smell it. All of the foregoing would be nothing but a futile  exercise in nostalgia  (so much water over the dam) if I had nothing constructive and concrete to offer. But I do. As alternate methods of power generation are developed, such as solar, and as the nation establishes a way of life adapted to actual resources and basic needs, so that the demand for electrical power begins to diminish, we can shut down the Glen Canyon power plant, open the diversion tunnels, and drain the reservoir. This will no doubt expose a drear and hideous scene: immense mud flats and whole plateaus of sodden garbage strewn with dead trees, sunken boats, the skeletons of long-forgotten, decomposing water-skiers. But to those who find the prospect too appalling, I say give nature a little time. In five years, at most in ten, the sun and wind and storms will cleanse and sterilize the repellent mess. The inevitable floods will soon remove all that does not belong within the canyons. Fresh green willow, box elder and redbud will reappear; and the ancient drowned cottonwoods (noble monuments to themselves) will be replaced by young of their own kind. With the renewal of plant life will come the insects, the birds, the lizards and snakes, the mammals. Within a generation — thirty years — I predict the river and canyons will bear a decent resemblance to their former selves. Within the lifetime of our children Glen Canyon and the living river, heart of the canyonlands, will be restored to us. The wilderness will again belong to God, the people and the wild things that call it home. Works Cited DAMNATION OF A CANYON, by Edward Abbey . Reprinted by permission of Don Congdon Associates, Inc. © 1984 by Edward Abbey. 1. Why does Abbey choose the
What is the main focus of "The Damnation of a Canyon"? A. How humans have nurtured and cared for animal life around Glen Canyon B. How Lake Powell is a huge reservoir behind the Glen Canyon Dam C. How industrialization by humans can destroy natural habitats D. How the author took a nostalgic boat trip down the Colorado River
hmmmmmmm i 'm not sure but think B
Question 3 of 5 Multiple Choice: Please select the best answer and click "submit." What does Edward Abbey believe will eventually allow the land around Glen Canyon to return to its natural state? A. Closing down the dam and draining the reservoir B. Implementing a motorboat ban on Lake Powell C. Providing shelters for the area's songbirds D. Allowing the lake's water levels to remain the same
no idea but i think A
The construction of the Glen Canyon Dam formed which body of water? A. Lake Mead B. Grand River C. Canyon Lake D. Lake Powell
lake powell i think '''''''''Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch dam on the Colorado River in northern Arizona in the United States, near the town of Page. The dam was built to provide hydroelectricity and flow regulation from the upper Colorado River Basin to the lower. Its reservoir is called Lake Powell, and is the second-largest artificial lake in the country, extending upriver well into Utah. The dam is named for Glen Canyon, a colorful series of gorges, most of which now lies under the reservoir.'''''''''
Question 5 of 5 Multiple Choice: Please select the best answer and click "submit." What does Edward Abbey say is a result of the constantly fluctuating water levels of Lake Powell? A. The birds along the shoreline are eating all of the plant seeds. B. Plant life is not able to grow on the shores of the lake. C. Too many plants are growing on the shore, causing decay. D. Animals are eating all of the plants that are growing on the shore.
no idea maybe B
You have yet to successfully complete this assessment. Your teacher would like you to score at least 70% on this computer scored assessment. Please review the study material preceding this assessment, reset the activity by clicking the Reset button above, and then take the assessment again. (1 of 2 attempts.) Your score is 60% (6.0 points out of 10). Question 1 2 3 4 5 Correct N N Y Y Y Points Earned 0 0 2 2 2
we almost made it failed by 1
Question 1 of 5 Multiple Choice: Please select the best answer and click "submit." What does Edward Abbey say that visiting the Glen Canyon area both before and after the construction of the dam makes him qualified to do? A. Navigate the rivers of the Grand Canyon B. Evaluate the changes in the land C. Lead tours around the Lake Powell area D. Start construction on a new reservoir
The construction of which dam caused the formation of Lake Powell? A. Powell Reservoir Dam B. Mead Dam C. Hoover Dam D. Glen Canyon Dam
Why is plant life unable to grow on the shores of Lake Powell? A. Because the water levels are constantly fluctuating B. Because most of the shore has been paved for boats C. Because all of the shoreline has been turned into beaches D. Because animals are eating all of the plant life
wait......wasn't this question correct??
this question wasnt asked
i think A
What is the main focus of "The Damnation of a Canyon"? A. How Lake Powell is a huge reservoir behind the Glen Canyon Dam B. How humans have nurtured and cared for animal life around Glen Canyon C. How industrialization by humans can destroy natural habitats D. How the author took a nostalgic boat trip down the Colorado River
Question 5 of 5 Multiple Choice: Please select the best answer and click "submit." What does Edward Abbey believe will eventually allow the land around Glen Canyon to return to its natural state? A. Allowing the lake's water levels to remain the same B. Closing down the dam and draining the reservoir C. Implementing a motorboat ban on Lake Powell D. Providing shelters for the area's songbirds
i have no ideas
You have successfully completed this activity. Please continue. (2 of 2 attempts.) Your score is 80% (8.0 points out of 10). Question 1 2 3 4 5 Correct Y Y Y Y N Points Earned 2 2 2 2 0