Less than a half hour out on the lake, the wind scooped the hat from my head, sailed it end over end, then plunked it down at the tail of our tour boat's silvered wake where it bobbed feebly before disappearing against the turquoise of Lake Powell's vast expanse.
But no more would I know the way the tour boat's sleek, white hull sliced the morning-blue water or the way the sunlight refracted her wall-like oversplash. Gone, too, would be my completely unobstructed view of of the rusty-red buttes against the cloudless sky, wind-honed cliffs shaped like crazy stacks of phyllo dough, and sheer sandstone slabs that pierced the mid-lake waters like giant shark fins from some mysterious netherworld. Besides, upper deck seats were at a premium and once relinquished, would never be recovered. All things considered, it was better to stay topside and burn. So I did. Both
At any given time of year, kayaks slip into dead-end canyons and water skiers zig-zag behind a powerboat's high, white plume. Canoes make their way into quiet coves while scuba divers investigate the glassy waterworld from the bottom up.
Today, tour boats regularly make their way up Forbidding Canyon to the mouth of Bridge Creek, tie up at a park service courtesy dock, and allow passengers to disembark. From there it is an easy quarter-mile walk to the bridge.
Now they come by the score--youngsters to splash in the water's of Bridge Creek and adults to crane their necks and snap innumerable photos. A small sign along the trail claims that "those who pass beneath the shadow of this bridge will leave their troubles behind." Perhaps it is but the poetic thought of modern man. Maybe it is an Anglo rendition of an ancient Navajo chant.
|Glen Canyon Dam|
The dam itself is a white monolith--a 710 foot-high, 1,560 foot-long concrete crest that holds back the combined waters of five rivers: the San Juan, Dirty Devil, Escalante, Green, and Colorado. At full lake capacity it impounds 27 million acre-feet of water--nine trillion gallons that transformed Glen Canyon's arid side canyons into yawning bays, its buttes into islands, and its inaccessible wilds into a watery highway.
Today's Glen Canyon is a far cry from the historical watercourse along which prehistoric Indians built their cliffside homes and early Franciscan friars sought desperately to cross. Neither is it the "carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcoves, gulches, mounds, and monuments" first officially mapped and described by the adventurous one-armed Civil War veteran, Major John Wesley Powell.
And it is still a land tortuously dissected--a place crushed and cemented by the intense pressure of ancient seas, then uplifted, sheared, tunneled, and polished to such a degree that investigating Glen Canyon itself (or any of its major 96 side canyons) requires either a boat or a sturdy pair of hiking shoes and the constitution of an Olympic athlete.
But there are plenty of pluses. A skilled skipper can get back into side canyons so narrow and twisted you'd never have the nerve to go there by yourself. And you'll be put ashore at Rainbow Bridge just in time for lunch--along with enough food to feed yourself plus Paul Bunyon and his blue Ox, Babe. You'll get a close-up view of Glen Canyon Dam from the backside and enough historical information to satisfy even the keenest curiosity.
IF YOU GO...
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area comprises 1.2 million acres of vermilion cliffs and dramatic rock formations astride the Arizona/Utah border. At its heart lies Lake Powell, the second-largest manmade waterway in North America (bested only by Lake Meade, another Colorado River impoundment farther south).
The National Park Service maintains public launching ramps and small campgrounds at Wahweap, Bullfrog, Hall's Crossing and Hite. Park Headquarters is located just outside of Page, AZ. Self-guided tours of the dam begin in the Carl Hayden Visitor Center and take approximately 3/4 of an hour.
For more information, contact the Superintendent, Glen Canyon NRA, Box 1507, Page AZ 86040