Home | Campaigns | About Us | Join Us | Store | Login

It’s about rivers and dams
Sunday July 31st 2005, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Beauty,Love,Nature / Eco,politics
Written By:

It’s about rivers and dams. This morning my partner Donna and I had a couple of dear friends over who invited us to go next year on a houseboat on Powell Reservoir, known by its fans as “Lake Powell” and its enemies as “Lake Foul.” It’s the lake that drowned Glen Canyon on the Colorado River above the GC National Park, Glen Canyon, “the Place that No One Knew.” John Wesley Powell, the first person to float the entire length of the Colorado River, wrote, “Past these towering monuments, past these mounded billows of orange sandstone, past these oak-set glens, past these fern-decked alcoves, past these mural curves, we glide hour after hour, stopping now and then, and our attention is arrested by some new wonder.” Lost to the dam and its “lake” were ancient artifacts and sacred places, geological wonders, and a canyon and its tributaries that were known to those who rafted it as the most amazing and beautiful part of the Colorado. What replaced Glen Canyon was a lake that, during low water, has a nasty bathtub ring and leaves visible the trash of vacationers who throw everything from dead generators to old oil to human shit into the lake. Nonetheless, I have seen pictures of the lake when it is full, and it is beautiful. I am almost tempted to take this trip with our friends to view the incredible red rocks, to hike in places I can otherwise never reach, to sleep on the boat under the infinite stars at night. Amost, but not quite. My trip would be one of mourning. Having rafted the River below Glen Canyon Dam, I know the River’s intensity, its beauty. I also know the consequences of living downriver from the Dam–water that is dangerously cold because it comes from the darkened, frigid bottom of the dam, a damaged ecosystem, native species of fish almost extinct, beaches gone or colonized by the beautiful but insatiable tamarisk. Running some of the most massive rapids in North America is fraught with its own kind of danger: if you flip, you have only minutes to get back into the boat or on shore before you are hypothermic. The Colorado below Glen Canyon is a stunning jade green, nothing like the mud that gave Rio Colorado (Red River) its name.

No, I will not take that houseboat adventure on a man-made lake that drowned the Canyon I could have loved, not even to see the beauty that remains, not even to mourn what was lost.

“Remember these things lost.
The native wildlife; the chance to float quietly down a calm river,
to let the current carry you past a thousand years of history,
through a living canyon of incredible, haunting beauty.
Here the Colorado had created a display that rivaled any in the world.
The side canyons simply had no rivals.
We lost wholeness, integrity in a place, one that might always
have let [humans] experience a magnificent gesture of the natural world.
No [human], in all the generations to be born of [humans], will ever be free
to discover for [him/herself] one of the greatest places of all.
This we inherited, and have denied to all others–
the place no one knew well enough.” –Eliot Porter

Glen Canyon Dam will not be forever–either it will erode the sandstone cliffs into which it is anchored, or it will be come filled with silt. “We can pollute the air, despoil the water, denude the land. Nature won’t care, but we will. It’s our frail allotment of time that we wreck, not nature’s” — Ruth Kirk. I hope within my own frail allotment of time I will see Glen Canyon Dam brought down and that I will be able to witness the first healing moments of Glen Canyon as I row through it.

1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

Mmmmm. What a wonderful collection of quotes and mental images you have conjured here. I think about my Wednesday hikes on San Bruno Mountain on the peninsula that San Francisco tips. When I start the hike I start it from a part of the mountain that is nestled between some of the peaks along the northern end of the mountain. To my west and east are freeways that can barely be heard at this point along my hike. At other points I hear the scenic 280 to my west and rambunctious 101 to my east. As I reach the far southern end of the mountain I hear SFO. At one point I hear them all as well as San Francisco itself to the north. Not only can I hear them all but I can see most of them as well. As I stand their, and after I released my judgement of the contrast between the mountain and the developed land below, I see we are part of nature.

We are like lightening that strikes a tree, the branch falls and dams the river. We are like the beaver and we are like the ant. We are a part of nature that builds and rearranges. I see us going way to far sometimes, and there are places that hurt my heart when I look down upon them. But when I look to the city I see something of beauty and I know that most of what I see has happened in the last 100 years. I think to myself – if we are wise enough and can truly learn how we are a part of nature – we are capable of remarkable things.

I love how clear you are about the dam going away. Eventually the dam will be integrated back into the ecosystem rather than dominating it. Two weeks ago I saw something wonderful. Giant artillery foundations that had fallen from above on the Cliffside to the beach below at the WWI / WWII army outpost at Fort Funston (now a place where people go to walk their dogs on the beach). Little ecosystems were forming around them embracing them – using them as they would the other rocks along the beach. The old iron was being claimed again, the cement was eroding letting free its pebbles. These examples of our own power are like the child’s sandcastle on the beach of the true building and rearranging power of the natural world.

Like George Carlen is found of saying. “Save the planet. Please! The planet will shake us off like minor case of the fleas. Save yourself people!” Somehow it is comforting to know that everything I make will eventually become star dust again. Mmmm

Comment by andrei hedstrom 08.01.05 @ 10:08 am

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>