National Geographic : 1967 Jul
Water backing up in Bridge Creek was now only a mile from Rainbow Bridge, and the lake ultimately will form a reflecting pool 46 feet deep beneath the arch. Some geologists believe the water eventually will topple the spectacular formation. Others disagree. But more visitors have seen Rainbow Bridge in the past two years than in all the previous years since its discovery in 1909. In that year John Wetherill rode a horse beneath Rainbow Bridge, the first white man known to have done so. Neil M. Judd, who directed Society-sponsored archeological stud ies of Southwestern Indian ruins four decades ago, was with the party that discovered the bridge and wrote in the GEOGRAPHIC of his awe upon first beholding "this sublime crea tion of the Master Builder." * Our old-timer, Parker Van Zandt, had known Wetherill. "In 1927," he told us, "I flew Wetherill around Navajo Mountain on his first plane trip. He wouldn't believe how small Rainbow looked-like half a thin doughnut. Now I'm having a hard time be lieving it's so big!" For my part, the sight of a marina floating near the entrance to Forbidding Canyon had been hard to believe. Its white structures nestled incongruously against the brooding cliffs in 200 feet of water (left). There was something else new, too, and it saddened us. When the lake level is down, re treating water leaves a white "bathtub ring" on the walls of the great gorge. The fact that Lake Powell presents its best face only when rising or remaining constant continues as one argument against such dams as Glen Canyon. Near Reflection Canyon one morning, Buzz and I met Guy Chambers, a schoolteacher from Tucson, Arizona, and his wife Betty, a nurse, putt-putting along in a ten-man life raft powered by a tiny outboard motor. "We've known this canyon for years," said Mr. Chambers. "We still love it, though we liked it better the way it used to be." Later we encountered Don Teetor, a retired industrialist, in his 60-foot houseboat Connie. With air conditioning, two-way radiotele phone, and a speedboat as tender, he and his guests were "roughing it" in style. "This lake's the greatest thing that ever happened!" he exclaimed. With 1,800 miles of shoreline, Lake Powell never seems crowded. Seldom did we see more than three boats at a time above Wahweap. Fire Still Warm-But No Navajos The 25,000-square-mile Navajo Indian Reservation borders nearly a third of the eastern shore of the lake. One afternoon, in the hope of finding Navajos, we cruised for 22 miles up the San Juan and pulled into Piute Canyon, one of several large gorges that drain the north side of Navajo Mountain. We left our boats and hiked up the creek. Bill Belknap forged ahead with a two-way radio. He called back shortly that he had found a Navajo camp near a spring and a rock corral in a grove of cottonwoods, but no Navajos. "Looks as if they've been here recently," he said. "Suggest you walk up the wash." Half an hour later, a tiny white terrier overtook us, gave a few staccato barks, and disappeared ahead. Following a hand-dug irrigation ditch, we came finally to a spring and a rock shelter with a fireplace. "The coals are warm," announced John. "Whoever was here hasn't been gone long." The terrier reappeared, sniffing and howling. *See "Beyond the Clay Hills," March, 1924.