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November/December 2005

Utah Hikes: The Case For Glen Canyon

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.

“Glen Canyon died in 1963, and I was partly responsible for its needless death. So were you. Neither you nor I, nor anyone else knew it well enough to insist that at all costs it should endure. When we began to find out it was too late.” –David Brower, The Place No One Knew

When the floodgates of Glen Canyon Dam closed more than four decades ago, environmentalists believed the nails had been forever pounded into the coffin of one of the largest wilderness areas in the Lower 48. Soon, the rising waters of Lake Powell would bury a 160,000-acre roadless landscape that included 200 miles of the Colorado River and more than 100 side canyons. But something curious has happened recently: A 6-year drought has half-emptied the reservoir, exposing countless miles of pristine hiking, climbing, and canyoneering terrain. Scientists say the dry times will almost certainly continue–and even if the rains return, increasing demand for water from Lake Mead and other reservoirs downstream might still make the condition permanent. Farewell, Lake Powell. Welcome back, Glen Canyon.

During several scouting expeditions last spring and summer, I explored the far reaches of this reborn wilderness, often with adventure photographer James Kay. We hiked in stretches of canyon where perhaps no human has been before. We crossed landscapes easily worthy of crown-jewel status, as awe-inspiring as those in nearby Zion or Grand Canyon. And we are happy to report Glen Canyon is alive and well. But don’t take our word for it. Go witness this miracle for yourself. Try one of our handpicked trips–or lay down your own first tracks. Then, help us prove David Brower wrong: It’s not too late to save Glen Canyon after all.

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