The Colorado River before the Construction of Glen Canyon Dam

Before the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River water of the Upper Basin was "inefficiently" used. Glen Canyon Dam solved that - it provided a giant reservoir from which the water could be released steadily and periodically to fulfill downstream needs. This is all accomplished while creating hydroelectricity, a clean source of power, but not necessarily "environmentally-friendly", due to the altering of the physiochemical properties of the water and hydrodynamics of the river. Before the dam was built, the Colorado River was one of the world’s siltiest rivers and its’ temperature peaked at 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime. Now the Colorado River flows crystal clear and cold, with an average temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and its’ flow levels do not fluctuate nearly as much as they used to. The Colorado River is now, in essence, a giant watering hose for the Southwest, and can be controlled exactly in that manner.

Before Glen Canyon Dam was built and Lake Powell filled, the marvelous, pristine, and highly isolated Glen Canyon was considered by the few thousand people that had seen it to be absolutely magnificent. When Edward Abbey, a powerful environmental writer who loved the West, first saw Glen Canyon in 1967, he called the landscape “an Eden, a portion of the earth’s original paradise." Furthermore, he called Glen Canyon Dam "sinful ugly" and "the most hated structure in the West." Abbey represented the prominent and outspoken literary voice of those who hated Glen Canyon Dam. When Lake Powell was filling, and the spectacular Glen Canyon was forever to be buried under hundreds of thousands of tons of water and sediment, David Brower’s friends wondered whether or not he would shoot himself. At that time, Brower was the executive director of the Sierra Club, and he partially blamed himself for the death of Glen Canyon in the late 1950's and early 1960's (Reisner, 1986). The filling of Glen Canyon also adversely affected the Navajo Indians and the sacred Rainbow Bridge of their culture. John Wesley Powell, the first white man to fully explore and document the Colorado River system, said of Music Temple, one of the many beautiful side canyons in Glen Canyon:

“On entering we find a little grove of box-elder and cottonwood trees, and turning to the right, we find ourselves in a vast chamber carved out of rock. At the upper end there is a clear, deep pool of water, bordered with verdure. Standing by the side of this, we can see the grove at the entrance. The chamber is more than 200 feet high, 500 feet long, and 200 feet wide. Through the ceiling and on through the rock for a thousand feet above, there is a narrow, winding skylight; and this is all carved out by a little stream which runs only during the few showers that fall now and then in this arid country.”

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