National Geographic : 1967 Jul
Lake Powell: Waterway to Desert Wonders can state, for instance, that green sunfish eat shaving cream. They also find people tempt ing. As I washed in the shallows each morning, they nibbled at my toes (page 48). From Halls Crossing upstream to Hite, named after Cass Hite, the prospector who started a Glen Canyon gold rush in 1883, the gorge walls are lower and less spectacular, although some side canyon scenery is superb. Hite wasn't where I had last seen it. Not only had it sought higher ground, but it had moved seven miles upstream. This wasn't difficult, since it consisted of only a few shacks and a river-gauging station. Even its new location near the mouth of the Dirty Devil River (named by the Powell expedition for its high silt content) is temporary. When silt fills the area, Hite will move again, becoming a full-fledged marina miles downstream. Hungry Cook Seeks Pie in the Sky We gassed the boats at Hite and soon roared under the new bridge, just above the Dirty Devil (map, page 55). It is the only high way span across the Colorado between Moab, Utah, and the dam, 155 air miles apart. Here the gorge changes its name from Glen Canyon to Narrow Canyon, and seven miles farther up, to Cataract Canyon. Powell nego tiated this turbulent 40-mile stretch with diffi culty. Even before entering Cataract Canyon, he ran short of food. One day he found Billy Hawkins, the cook, pretending to use a sex tant. Billy said he wanted to find the latitude and longitude of the nearest pie. The water by now was turbid. We would soon reach the end of the lake and meet rapids ourselves, and I wondered how far we could get up Cataract. Between high rugged cliffs, millions of years older than those of Glen, we rounded Mille Crag Bend, named by Powell for its "vast numbers of crags, and pinnacles, and tower-shaped rocks...." Then we passed Sheep Canyon and Freddies Cistern, and nosed into the mouth of Dark Canyon. The sedimentary rock that made up its tre mendous walls varied from slate blue to pink (opposite). With its clean stream and potable water, its inviting "bathtubs" and waterfalls, it came as a delightful surprise. Our map showed Dark Canyon zigzagging 30-odd miles eastward into uranium and va nadium country. Branching from it were side canyons by the dozen: Lean-To, Black Steer, Horse Pasture, Woodenshoe. We could have spent a mpont exploring them. Back on Lake Powell, not far beyond Dark Canyon, little whirlpools betrayed the pres ence of submerged rocks. The water was flow ing. The lake had met the river. Buzz, with an assurance born of experience in reading the river, wove an exhilarating, almost rhythmic course between shores gay with tamarisk and willow and sparkling white beaches. Then around a bend, opposite Bow die Canyon, we saw rapids. A broad sand bar squeezed the leaping, boiling river against the mighty west wall. After making camp, we donned life jackets and devoted our full attention to the joy of running the rapids in the Sport Yak. Portaging upstream, we abandoned ourselves to the downstream torrent as we battled to hold a safe course between lurking rocks. When the river won and overturned us, we reveled in the struggle to keep our heads above water. Finally, after several hours, we flopped ex hausted on the beach. The surging power of the river and the majesty of the cliffs above us suggested our insignificance, but filled us with the satisfaction that springs from such intimacy with the beauty of nature. Young Eyes See New Riches for Old Silt must inevitably fill Lake Powell, though not in our time. The glens Powell knew are already gone. But thousands of square miles of desert wonderland, hitherto accessible to only a few, have suddenly be come available to all. I have talked to men who knew the river before the dam was built, men who made their living by guiding visitors on boat trips through Glen Canyon. One, who fought the dam, had changed his mind and spoke enthu siastically about Lake Powell. Another, his fortune invested in a new marina, readily ad mitted, "I'd willingly lose it all if Glen Canyon could be put back the way it was." But my young companions, who had never seen Glen Canyon before, viewed it through the fresh, enthusiastic eyes of youth. "Maybe the dam shouldn't have been built," remarked Buzz Belknap, "but it's mighty hard to mourn Glen Canyon now that I've seen Lake Powell." THE END Enticing walkers to explore yet another bend, a shallow stream twists past ancient sedimen tary rocks in Dark Canyon. The gorge penetrates unspoiled country; using Lake Powell's upper reaches as access, more and more visitors will discover its haunting beauty. KODACHROME© N.G.S.