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Seldom Seen: A Poignant Look Back at Glen Canyon Before the Dam 

Ken Sleight remembers the stunning beauty of Glen Canyon before it was flooded by a massive dam in the 1960s. Taylor Graham’s film “Seldom Seen Sleight” – winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest – shows the magnificent landscape lost and offers hope it might someday be restored.

AUGUST 15, 2019

Thanks Gary. 

Glen Canyon Dam was ill advised from the start.  The impoundment at Lake Powell has never been used for irrigation.  Flood control is not very important above Grand Canyon.  Much of the beach erosion has been attributed to a lack of flooding.  The hydro-electric potential has been permanently shut down. 

It is a giant lake that evaporates many thousands of acre feet each summer ina a very arid location with high temperatures.  That water could be much better used downstream at Lake Mead. 

Danile Beard former head of the US Bureau of Reclamation is a proponent of removing the dam.  It will happen eventually but it will be expensive to remove all of that poured concrete.  Some day people will see the beauty of Glen Canyon again. 

I was fortunate to see some of the Glen Canyon country before the dam was finished - primarily around Navajo mountain and Rainbow Bridge.

I think it will take more than simply removing the dam to "restore" GC.  One of the reasons for building the dam was to retard the buildup of silt in Lake Mead (transfer the silt buildup to a different spot on the planet).  Perhaps one could mine the silt in GC and sell it for garden soil.  Don't hold your breath.

It would be indeed be nice if we had a relatively unspoiled GC again, but remember that back from the canyon there are miles (thousands of miles)of beautiful high red rock country.

It is sad what was lost. I few over the area during mapping missions as it filled and observed over the decades from both above and while hiking. I do remember the year it reached full pool and camped, swam and hiked it then. It was easy to notice the huge silt buildups in the slot canyons like Antelope. Then came the huge drain off and the white bathtub ring left behind as well as the cans and trash the boaters left behind. But in time I noticed even that white ring started wearing off so things could repair themselves to a certain extent given time.

The silt buildup where it backed up to the Dirty Devil at Hite is amazing.

There are still many high and dry places to explore and we have done a ton of that in southern Utah.

Seldom Seen Smith is of course a character in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang who romped the same area and decried the dam among other things. Read it when I was a kid. Hence the part of the title of the video.

August 14, 2020
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