National Geographic : 1997 Jul
A muddy cloud of sediment-laden water from the Paria River mixes with the clear Colorado at Lees Ferry. The Paria, the Little Colorado River, and smaller tributaries annually contribute about 20 million tons of sediment, raw material for rebuilding eroded beaches. Narrow banks mean less space to set up camp for a visitor near the mouth of the Little Colorado (below), one of the roughly 22,000 people who run the Colorado River each year. Meanwhile, scientists argue about how to manage the river. Some say large annual floods would serve to restore the river's predam environment. Others favor the postdam ecosystem, noting that new sources of habitat and food support increasing wildlife. A third camp, the dambuster view espoused by the Sierra Club and the Glen Canyon Insti tute, advocates pulling the plug on the dam and draining Lake Powell to restore Glen Canyon, which was inundat ed by Powell. "It's a healthy debate," says Interior Secretary Bab bitt. "The American people will have to decide what they want this river to be."