The Glen Canyon Reader


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Stretching for 170 miles across northern Arizona and southern Utah, Lake Powell is both a vacationer’s paradise and the second-largest reservoir in the Western Hemisphere. Yet few visitors to the lake today are aware of the lost world that lies beneath its crystal waters. Once an enchanted landscape of sandstone cliffs and secret crevices, Glen Canyon has been but a memory since the damming of the Colorado River near Page, Arizona, in 1963. Often called “the place no one knew,” Glen Canyon was in fact explored by thousands of visitors—including dozens of writers—before the dam’s completion. River runner Mathew Gross has combed the literature of Glen Canyon to assemble this wide-ranging look at the history of this now-submerged natural treasure, the first book to bring together these voices of remembrance. Beginning with the first known written report of Glen Canyon in an eighteenth-century missionary journal, Gross has selected accounts of the canyon from both before and after the dam. Included are some of the West’s best-known writers—Zane Grey and Katie Lee, Edward Abbey and Ellen Meloy—as well as Pulitzer Prize winners John McPhee and Wallace Stegner. Other authors range from David Brower, director of the Sierra Club when the dam was built, to Floyd Dominy, the federal bureaucrat responsible for the dam. The Glen Canyon Reader is a book that may be read straight through as entertaining and informative history. But as Gross suggests, “Perhaps more pleasurable is to flip through these pages, to poke around and explore, as one would have done in Glen Canyon . . . to visit and revisit the places contained in this book, these cool glens and embracing alcoves and hidden grottos, these canyons and dreams and ghosts that will always, always be with us.”