If you have been reading my blog, you know that I hinted that this week’s post was going to be about another man-made wonder. However after reading a very disturbing article in the New York Times. I feel compelled to change the order of my postings so this week will instead be about one of the most breathtaking and unparalleled NATURAL WONDERS , THE GRAND CANYON. Let me take you into this vast, spiritual and, in my opinion (as well as many others, including all the indigenous peoples that inhabited this land well before us) sacred place, and then tell you about plans that some are trying to effect that might alter this pristine site forever.
First, a little geology lesson. If you recall, I spoke about another stop on the Grand Staircase, or Escalante National Monument, in the post “THAT’S ONE BIG BATHTUB RING.” As a refresher, here is a schematic of the entire staircase, as well as a closeup of today’s site:
There are over 2 billion years of geological history exposed in this great canyon’s rock walls. There is more Paleozoic (542 million years ago to 251 million years ago) and Pre-Cambrian (the first time period of the earth, about 4.5 billion years ago – 542 million years ago) exposed here than any other place on the planet. And, as the Colorado carved its way through the rock, it has exposed fossils that date back to the earliest living organisms on earth. The Grand Canyon covers 1900 square miles on the Colorado Plateau with elevations ranging from 1200 to 9100 feet. Travelling from one end of The Grand Canyon to the other covers 280 miles from Lees Ferry (see TOBBR) in Northern Arizona to the western border with Nevada. The GC has climatic conditions that vary as widely as its size – from 23″ annual rainfall of the Northern RIm versus 16 inches annually snowfall at the Southern Rim Similarly, the North Rim accumulates about 130 inches of snow annually, while the South Rim averages only about half as much, Temperatures range from summertime highs of 120 degrees Farenheit at the canyon’s floor to winter lows of 35 degrees and there is more than a 20 degree difference from the top of the GC to the floor below.
Despite these extreme variances, inhabitants made this their home as far back as 8-10,000 years ago, even in some of the highest, most inaccessible areas.
The first settlers, the “Paleo-Indians” who made their way across the land bridge that once existed in the Bering Strait, were nomadic peoples who moved constantly as they hunted down gigantic beasts of prey such as mammoths and mastodons. About 1,000 years ago, the ANASAZI (The Ancient Ones) arrived and the last of the Native Americans to occupy the region were the Navajo about 600 years ago. The first European explorers were the Spanish Conquistadors, who were actually interested in finding a fabled city of gold while the first Americans discovered the GC as they looked for supply routes into Utah. John Wesley Powell made his famous trip down the Colorado River in 1869 and in 1908 the area was proclaimed a National Monument, followed by 1919 congressional legislation naming it a National Park.
It is hard to fathom that this seemingly tiny little river had tremendous power over millenia to create such a masterpiece. I was able to capture the Colorado River in its relentless carving , while in a Cessna traversing the GC:
The are simply no words that can accurately portray the immensity and grandeur of the GC – it truly humbled a mortal such as myself – so I will let my photos show you just a bit of its wild, unfettered magnificence:
Now to some stark potentials. There are those in this world who cannot look upon such a vast expanse of land without seeing $$$$$ signs. At the face of it, this is not terrible – after all, the GC already generates about $10 million annually, through park fees, recreational activities (rafting, hiking, camping, hotels, food etc). Of course, the present day activities do require scrutiny to ensure that the eco-balance of the GC is not compromised – and so far this has worked fairly well, the pristine nature of this land has not been compromised. There is the Skywalk, a see through glass walkway that was opened in 2007 and is run by the Hualapai Nation ($75.00 walkfee) – however it is located on the far western end about a 5 hour drive from the Southern Rim and is actually on Hualapai Reservation land:
There is controversy about this structure, concerning its desecration of “sacred land” as well as it’s possible ecobalance upheaval. However, this is NOTHING compared to what some developers want to build into the GC itself. There are actually two threats at hand. One is a plan to construct just a mere two miles from the park’s entrance, a housing development for 2200 homes and 3 million square feet of commercial space that would include shops, hotels, a spa and a dude ranch. Just the water needs alone for this project is terrifying as it would no doubt threaten the health of the aquifer that provides the park’s springs. This is a land, as I have shown in previous posts, that has a precarious relationship with water – natural causes alone have brough sever droughts – the thought of what harm this development could wreak is horrifying.
The second project is even a greater threat and an affront to what the GC is all about – free – natural untouched by human hands beauty. A group of investors that sadly includes some Navajo leaders, is trying to push for construction of a 1.4 mile tramway that would descend about 3200 feet DIRECTLY into the heart of the GC. It would be called “The Grand Canyon Escalade” and frankly this brings to my mind a visual of NYC Subways escalators – not a pretty site in our system so imagine the blighted look it would bring to the GC. This cable tram would transport over 4000 visitors a day in 8 person gondolas down to the floor of the canyon to what the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni Peoples believe is sacred. Of course, you can’t build a tramway just to get to the GC floor, so plans also call for a restaurant and amphitheater, among other ideas.
Now this is beginning to sound like a Disney or Six Flags adventure ride. Don’t get me wrong – I think those amusement areas are great – and while I can’t say they were built upon just swampland or empty lots – I am sure they were not constructed on top of a site in any way comparable to the GC. The destruction of the land, the billions of years of natural creation permanently altered, the potential upheaval of the ecobalance are potentially lethal. The GC not only is considered sacred land to our aboriginal peoples, many of those who have visited the wonders of the GC feel they have had a religious or at the very least spiritual experience. To move ahead with this proposal is simply this: a violation of nature and a desecration.
This is the only interaction we should have with The Grand Canyon: