The Resurrection of Glen Canyon

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From the 1930s through the ‘60s, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation embarked upon a campaign to harness the rivers of the booming American West. As it launched into a frenzy of dam building, altering the course of the Colorado River and its many tributaries, the government agency triggered intense opposition. One of the most volatile controversies was the damming of Glen Canyon, a 170-miles-long ecological wonder stretching across southern Utah and northern Arizona. In an attempt to prevent its loss, David Brower, then executive director of the Sierra Club, and photographer Eliot Porter produced and disseminated The Place No One Knew—a large-format photographic book dedicated to raising awareness of the beauty and historical richness of Glen Canyon. Despite Brower’s campaign, the Bureau of Reclamation completed its damming in 1963, leading to the eventual creation of Lake Powell. As the new reservoir filled, its waters consumed countless treasures, including ancient petroglyphs, stone forts, cottonwoods, and willows. The sinuous, redrock curves of Glen Canyon sank beneath the waters of a man-made lake.

Today, after a series of drought years, Lake Powell has diminished in capacity and Glen Canyon has reemerged. We have the unprecedented opportunity to honor David Brower’s vision and prevent a second loss of Glen Canyon.

Resurrection is a tribute to The Place No One Knew. Photographs by James Kay evoke the burnished red beauty of the canyon, and before-and-after shots illustrate Lake Powell’s massive drop in water level. Annette McGivney explores the damming controversy, the history of water politics in the American southwest, and the reappearance of the canyon. Like Brower and Porter’s 1963 photographic paean to Glen Canyon, this book aims to instill in the reader an abiding love of the canyon and a desire to secure its protection.

The Department of the Interior’s water policy needs to evolve to meet new needs—and Americans must live more sustainably, especially in the arid West.

In producing this book, Braided River has partnered with the Glen Canyon Institute (GCI), a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to "restore a healthy Colorado River through Glen Canyon." In Spring 2007, GCI proposed the re-designation of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as a national park—to honor the area as a national treasure and preserve it for future generations.

Annette McGivney; foreword by Bill McKibben; photography by James Kay

For the latest on Glen Canyon conservation, click here.