National Geographic : 2016 Sep
number of trekkers who had completed a “con- tinuous” thru-hike in a single push was even smaller. Before 2015 more people had stood on the moon (12) than had completed a continuous thru-hike of the Grand Canyon (eight). When photographer Pete McBride heard about Rudow’s plans, he called him and asked whether we could join his group. Pete and I had years of experience boating in the canyon, but we were woefully unprepared for what lay ahead. The only explanation for Rudow’s agreeing is that he was swayed by our primary reason for wanting to do it: to look into dis- turbing reports we’d been hearing about the canyon’s future, which included new tourist developments, increased helicopter flights, and a uranium mine. SINCE IT ENTERED the American conscious- ness, the Grand Canyon has provoked two major reactions: the urge to protect it, and the temp- tation to make a whopping pile of money from it. During the years after the Powell expedition, miners rushed into the canyon to lay claims for copper, zinc, silver, and asbestos. During the 1880s one tycoon wanted to turn the bottom of the canyon into a railroad corridor to haul coal from Denver to California. (He drowned in the Colorado, along with two members of his survey expedition.) In the 1950s a mining company tried to get rich by building a giant cableway to move bat guano from a cave and sell it to rose gardeners; that didn’t last long. There was even a government plan to build a pair of giant hy- droelectric dams in the heart of the canyon, a project that would have transformed large parts of the Colorado River into a series of reservoirs whose shorelines today would undoubtedly 0 0.5 0 0.5 mi km GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK NAVAJO NATION RESERVATION Chuar Butte Direction of view at left 6,000feet5,0004,0003,000ColoradoLi ttle Colora d oTRAMWAY3,200-FOOTDESCENT ESCALADE (PROPOSED) CHARLES PREPPERNAU, NGM STAFF. SOURCES: GRAND CANYON ESCALADE; USGS The proposed Escalade Tramway project would be built on the western edge of Navajo land. Supporters say it will bring tourism revenue to the impoverished reservation.