On Our Own, Again — Page, AZ, August 29-September 1, 2016

Horseshoe Bend, one of the most photographed areas on the Colorado River, is located just north of Grand Canyon and outside Page, Arizona.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land east of Page, Arizona. The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon means “the place where water runs through rocks.”

Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic ‘flowing’ shapes in the rock.

Flooding in the canyon still occurs. A flood occurred on October 30, 2006, that lasted 36 hours, and caused the Tribal Park Authorities to close Lower Antelope Canyon for five months.

Antelope Canyon is a popular location for photographers and sightseers, and a source of tourism business for the Navajo Nation. Private tour companies have been permitted to offer tours since 1987. It has been accessible by tour only since 1997, when the Navajo Tribe made it a Navajo Tribal Park. Photography within the canyons is difficult due to the wide exposure range (often 10 EV or more) made by light reflecting off the canyon walls.  (My pictures within the canyon were made by taking multiple pictures at varying levels of exposure and then combining them using HDR (High Dynamic Range) software in Adobe Photoshop CS6.)

In the 1940s and early 1950s, the  U.S. Bureau of Reclamation planned to construct a series of Colorado River dams in the rugged Colorado Plateau province of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Glen Canyon Dam was born of a controversial damsite the Bureau selected in Echo Park, in what is now Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. A small but politically effective group of objectors led by David Brower of the Sierra Club succeeded in defeating the Bureau’s bid, citing Echo Park’s natural and scenic qualities as too valuable to submerge. By agreeing to a relocated damsite near Lee’s Ferry between Glen and Grand Canyons, however, Brower did not realize what he had gambled away. At the time, Brower had not actually been to Glen Canyon. When he later saw Glen Canyon on a river trip, Brower discovered that it had the kind of scenic, cultural, and wilderness qualities often associated with America’s national parks. Over 80 side canyons in the colorful Navajo Sandstone contained clear streams, abundant wildlife, arches, natural bridges, and numerous Native American archeological sites. By then, however, it was too late to stop the Bureau from building Glen Canyon Dam.

Emboldened by Echo Park and desperate to protect the Grand Canyon from a similar fate as Glen, Brower and the Sierra Club directed attention towards the proposed Bridge and Marble dams. The Sierra Club launched an extensive publicity campaign to sway public opinion against the plan; in response to the USBR’s argument that new reservoirs would open up the Grand Canyon to recreational boaters as Lake Powell had, a full-page advertisement in the New York Times ran the slogan: “Should we also flood the Sistine Chapel so tourists can float nearer the ceiling?” Faced with a tremendous outcry, the Bureau abandoned its Grand Canyon dams, effectively terminating most of the Pacific Southwest Water Plan, in 1968. The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station was built near Page, to make up for the electric power that was lost with the cancellation of the dam project. The Sierra Club lost its IRS tax-exempt status a day after the advertisement was released; ostensibly, this was due to its disruptive political activities. However, the group’s membership more than doubled in the next three years, many of them citizens unhappy with the IRS’ action.

The Glen Canyon Bridge or Glen Canyon Dam Bridge is the steel arch bridge carrying U.S. Route 89 across the Colorado River. The bridge was originally built by the United States Bureau of Reclamation to facilitate transportation of materials for the Glen Canyon Dam, which lies adjacent to the bridge just 865 feet upstream. Carrying two lanes, the bridge rises over 700 feet above the river and was the highest arch bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1959.

Lake Powell, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, is the reservoir on the Colorado River created by Glen Canyon Dam. The reservoir is named for explorer John Wesley Powell, a one-armed American Civil War veteran who explored the river via three wooden boats in 1869. It is a major vacation spot that around 2 million people visit every year. It is the second largest man-made reservoir by maximum water capacity in the United States behind Lake Mead. However, due to high water withdrawals for human and agricultural consumption, and because of subsequent droughts in the area, Lake Powell is currently larger than Mead. The existence of the reservoir led to the creation of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in 1972, a popular summer destination on public land managed by the National Park Service.

Lake Powell is a water storage facility for the Upper Basin states of the Colorado River Compact (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico). The Compact specifies that the Upper Basin states are to provide a minimum annual flow of 7,500,000 acre feet to the Lower Basin states (Arizona, Nevada, and California).

Approximately 12 miles from Page, and 9 miles from Glen Canyon Dam, is an unusual campground:  Lone Rock Beach Primitive Camping, featuring camping on a sandy beach or in dunes with no designated campsites.  Open fires are permitted, but must be within a four foot squared area. There are 4 micro flush toilets, 6 vault toilets, 1 comfort station/wheelchair accessible, and an outdoor cold shower, There is an Off Road Vehicle area, a dump station, potable water (seasonal), and a day use area. No launch ramp. $14 per vehicle/per night. (But no charge to Golden Age Passport holders.)  No reservations.

The site is named for Lone Rock, a large isolated redrock formation.

[Facts in this post gleaned from several Wikipedia posts.  Opinions are those of this blog’s authors.]