Lake Powell History

John Wesley Powell was the first person to fully explore and write about the canyons of the Colorado River. On the first of two trips down the Colorado, Powell and his men saw and named many features, including Glen Canyon. Though several people, both before and after Powell, lived, worked, and travelled in Glen Canyon, it remained a place largely unknown to most of the United States. It was still terra incognita in the early 1950's when the Bureau of Reclamation proposed building a dam, one of many proposed for the Colorado River, at Glen Canyon's southern end.

Name The nation's environmental movement, though still in its infancy at this time, had just waged a successful campaign (led by the Sierra Club) to prevent the construction of a dam at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. The wonders of Glen Canyon, however, were still undiscovered by those who might have preserved it.

Construction of the dam began in 1956. It was completed in 1962, but the lake did not completely fill until 1980. Lake Powell, which covered most of Glen Canyon, was named, ironically, after the man who had first written of the canyon's many charms.

 Today, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA) and Lake Powell serve the needs of a diverse population. The lake provides opportunities for a variety of water-based recreational pursuits. The dam provides water storage for irrigation and produces electricity for millions. Most of the backcountry (the lake comprises only 13% of the total recreation area) is still as vast and remote as it was before the dam. In addition to their Namerecreational and practical uses, the dam and the lake sparked a controversy which contributed to the birth to the modern-day environmental movement and began a debate which continues today. To what extent can humans alter their landscape before they lose their connection to the land? What is the price of progress and is it ever too high? What is the legacy we will leave to our children?

It's easy to relax and have fun at Glen Canyon. But it's also important to appreciate the remaining wonders of geology here, marvel at the stories of the different people who lived and travelled here, and be in awe of the enormous silence and solitude in the backcountry. And to remember a remarkable place that existed just a few years ago -- a place that no one knew.

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