The Damnation of a Canyon

Not many people are aware of the formerly 150-mile trip that the Glen Canyon had to offer. Not many people have ever sailed a raft down a river for a week. Not many people are aware of how to interact with nature and the animals that come with it. We appear to originate from a world where time is important and money is essential. Edward Abbey is an example of an extreme environmentalist. He describes how constructing Lake Powell, a reservoir created on the Utah-Arizona border, was an ecological catastrophe.

Abbey calls it the Damnation of a Canyon. Glen Canyon was once one of the most popular places for rafters and nature enthusiasts, but after the dam was put in, the Canyon was lost forever.

Abbey talks about how we have “destroyed” this natural wonder and the people who visit it today are only seeing a shadow of what used to be. Abbey’s writing is so poetic and descriptive, you can’t help but feel as if you were there with him. He mourns for what has been lost and I think his words provide great insight on how to appreciate our surroundings before they are gone forever.

He is one of the few people who has seen Glen Canyon before it was altered into a reservoir. Today, over a million people visit that lake each year, making it one of the most popular recreational spots in the western United States. Edward Abbey describes himself as an environmental activist who will agree with his view and encourage him to take action. So, in other words, he wants this essay to be read by an environmental activist who will support his viewpoint and persuade him to take action.

Abbey did not like any of the dams that were built in Glen Canyon, he thought they were an atrocity to nature. He talks about the way the dam builders dynamited the sacred rocks, how they flooded the canyons and how they destroyed the ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings. Abbey also discusses how Sin City has now moved in on the edges of Glen Canyon and all of the development and destruction that comes with it.

It is interesting to see Abbey’s perspective on Glen Canyon because he is one of the few people who have seen it before and after it was changed by man. Abbey’s passion for nature shines through in his writing and it is easy to see why he fought so hard to protect Glen Canyon. His article provides a unique and interesting perspective on the Glen Canyon Dam and its effects on the environment.

Abbey was a seasonal park ranger for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in 1967, so of course he would be opposed to any environmental change made to the canyon. He stated that before the damnation of the canyon, there were streams, waterfalls, plunge pools, and a plethora of animals.

You could only find something like it on a small scale previously, and these things have been lost, pushed out, drowned, or buried under mud now. Abbey made several arguments; one of them that I found intriguing was his description of the distinction between today’s reservoir and the original Glen Canyon.

The reservoir created a “lake” measuring 180 miles long by up to 10 miles wide, and holding 6 million acre-feet of water. The original Canyon was a series of narrow gorges and ravines, with occasional broader areas where the stream had cut down through the sandstone more deeply.

Abbey writes, “A few hundred yards wide, perhaps a mile or two long, and in some places not more than fifty or sixty feet deep. A beautiful place, rugged and stark, lovely in its savage austerity.” Glen Canyon Dam completely transformed this area into something completely different than what it once was.

Abbey also points out that most people don’t even know that Glen Canyon exists because it’s hidden behind the dam and this was one of his purposes for writing the book, to bring attention to what had been lost. It’s not just the Canyon that’s suffered though, the wildlife in the area has also taken a big hit.

Abbey talks about how many animals have had to adapt or move elsewhere because their natural habitats have been destroyed. He includes an anecdote about a pair of ravens who used to live near the dam, but after it was built they had to move further upstream and as a result, their numbers decreased.

I think what I found most interesting about Abbey’s writing was his passion for Glen Canyon and his anger towards those who made the decision to build the dam. He makes it clear that he doesn’t think everything was perfect before the dam was built, but he believes that the Canyon was worth preserving.

Abbey’s writing is full of emotion and it’s clear that he feels strongly about this issue. He doesn’t just talk about the negative impacts of the dam, but also highlights some of the positive aspects, like how it provides water for agriculture and Las Vegas. I think Abbey’s book is a good example of how passionate people can be about their environment and what they’re willing to do to protect it.

Abbey explains, The water is a lovely shade of blue. After each drawdown of the water level, Abbey speaks of a term called bathtub ring, which is left on the canyon walls. It’s not really an issue for park rangers in Glen Canyon, who believe it to be “not particularly significant,” according to Abbey.

When it comes to nature, some people find seeing that effect more than they have seen or will ever see in their lifetime. They come from locations where there isn’t much wildlife about. People travel from far away just so they can view something like that for themselves. Perhaps seeing it on paper or watching it on video at school are the closest they’ll get to witnessing such a thing firsthand.

When Abbey talks of the Canyon, he seems to be in love with it in a dark way. To quote him, “the place had the power to damn your soul.” When looking at how man has impacted the Canyon, it is easy to see why Abbey felt that way.

The Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963 and created Lake Powell. The damming of the Colorado River not only flooded Glen Canyon but also disrupted natural ecosystems and archaeological sites. When Abbey wrote his essay in 1968, the Glen Canyon Dam had already been in operation for 5 years and was having a devastating impact on the environment. Abbey was outraged by the destruction of Glen Canyon and passionately argued against the building of dams.

Today, the Glen Canyon Dam remains a controversial topic. While it has provided jobs and electricity to many people, it has also caused extensive damage to the environment. There is now a movement to decommission the Glen Canyon Dam and restore the canyon to its original state. Whether or not this will happen remains to be seen, but Abbey’s essay provides a powerful reminder of the importance of safeguarding our natural landscapes.

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