|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – November/December 2005
Drought is giving Glen Canyon--and those who love it--a second chance. Here are four spectacular reasons why we should protect this Southwest wilderness by making it America's next national park.
A bold trek from canyon bliss into terra incognita
Splashing downstream in Llewellyn Gulch, we marvel at the bounty of late-spring blooms: evening primrose, prickly pear, globe mallow. Then something shiny and white glints in the afternoon sun. Wedged in the sandy bank, almost swallowed up by a green tangle of reeds, is a pool slide. Chances are, it once adorned the deck of a tricked-out houseboat that floated by 50 feet above where we are now padding through a few inches of water.
Like a tombstone marking a forgotten grave, the slide reminds us of what was--and that we have no idea what lies ahead. The reservoir buried 250 square miles of Glen Canyon long before guidebook authors or mapmakers or Desert Solitaire fans had a chance to explore it. Now that the lake has shrunk by more than 100 square miles, a slickrock and slot-canyon wilderness the size of Arches National Park has suddenly materialized. And all of it is terra incognita.
Before reaching this spot just below the reservoir's old high-water mark, my hiking partners and I had spent a day and a half trekking down from the top of Llewellyn, following a remote route coveted by canyon junkies. Upper Llewellyn is certainly a jewel, with challenging scrambles over pour-offs, narrows 10 feet across and 50 feet deep, a crystalline perennial stream just deep enough to cover your feet, and a bottomless swimming hole that is better, even, than strawberry ice cream on a blistering day.