National Geographic : 1967 Jul
Lake Powell: Waterway to Desert Wonders Weathering had obscured much of the evi dence of the heroic passage. In one stretch, to traverse a 50-foot cliff, the Mormons attached a road to the sheer rock wall. We saw grooves they had cut to hold the inside wagon wheels, and holes they had drilled for poles to support a roadway for the outside wheels. Waters Almost Swallow Huge Arch Just north of Hole in the Rock, the lake is fed by the muddy Escalante River. Before Lake Powell provided easy access over the quicksand at its mouth, few but plateau-roam ing cattlemen knew the upper reaches of the Escalante. From the air, I had been intrigued by its deep tributaries: Fiftymile Creek, Davis Gulch, and Clear Creek on the west, and Stevens, Cow, and Explorer Canyons drain ing the Waterpocket Fold on the east.* Now, boating up Fiftymile Creek, we just squeezed under Gregory Natural Bridge, which once soared 180 feet. In Davis Gulch, however, the triangular window of La Gorce Arch (page 46), named for the late John Oliver La Gorce, President and Editor of the Na tional Geographic Society from 1954 to 1957, seemed high enough to survive. So did a 100 foot panel of Indian pictographs, believed to be a thousand years old. In Clear Creek the lake lay eight feet deep in the Cathedral in the Desert, a glen that closely resembled Music Temple. I had hiked in to see it the previous year in all its tapes tried, vaulted glory. This time we entered in the boats. Though it was still magnificent, I missed the green pool, the tiny crystal stream, and the delicate moss and maidenhair fern on the red sand floor. Its years, too, are numbered by the rising waters. Explorer Canyon's scenery confirmed the impression I had gained from the air. We hiked to the far end, splashing through crys tal pools, pausing to examine some aquatic creature or drink from a cool, sweet spring. Here 500-foot-high walls merged in a gigantic alcove. Water trickled down into an inviting pool. Vines entwined a chaos of rocks under the overhang. The great alcove acted like an orchestra shell, reflecting the chirps of swoop ing violet-green swallows and the sweet descending notes of canyon wrens. We left the miniature Shangri-La reluctantly. There is much to be learned of man's pre historic past in these canyonlands. Archeolo gists from the University of Utah and the Museum of Northern Arizona, under contract with the Park Service, in 1957 began an ur gent survey of the lake-bed area to discover *See "Escalante: Utah's River of Arches," by W. Robert Moore, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, September, 1955. KODACHROME BY WALTERMEAYERSEDWARDS() N.G.S . Dinosaur junction: Frozen in stone, tracks discovered by the author's party in Explorer Canyon trace the crisscrossing paths of reptiles living 170 million years ago. Prints more than a foot wide leading across the rock were made by a carnosaur, or flesh-eating dino saur, striding on hind feet. Paleontologists suspect it may have been the big Kayenta dinosaur, Megalosaurus wetherilli, skeletal remains of which have been uncovered on the Navajo reservation. A smaller dinosaur left the seven-inch tracks going up the slab.