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Glen Canyon Dammed
Inventing Lake Powell and the Canyon Country
By Jared Farmer
312 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 2004
Paper (978-0-8165-1887-6)
Related Interest
  - History
  - The Modern West
  - Environmental History

Growth is a major issue in the contemporary American West, especially as more and more towns and states turn to tourism to spark their economies. But growth has a flip side—loss—about which
Anyone interested in the history of place, the effects of tourism on the West, or a fresh approach to the story of Lake Powell should read this fine and complex book.

—Environmental History

Jared Farmer . . . had not been born when Glen Canyon was dammed and Lake Powell created in 1963, but he has a superb sense of the glory of the place before the Bureau of Reclamation came and put it under water. . . . There are several stories in this book, each important and well-told. . . . A particularly eye-opening section of the book is devoted to federal reclamation and the Big Dam Era of engineered water. . . . From the title to the last poignant line of his book, Farmer is a soul-mate of writer John McPhee, who in 1971 said there is something inherently sinister about dams and their function of 'humiliating nature.'

—Rocky Mountain News

we seldom think until something is irrevocably gone. Where once was Glen Canyon, with its maze of side-canyons leading to the Colorado River, now is Lake Powell, second largest reservoir in America, attracting some three million visitors a year. Many who come here think they have found paradise, and for good reason: it's beautiful. However, the loss of Glen Canyon was monumental—to many, a notorious event that remains unresolved. Focusing on the saddening, maddening example of Glen Canyon, Jared Farmer traces the history of exploration and development in the Four Corners region, discusses the role of tourism in changing the face of the West, and shows how the "invention" of Lake Powell has served multiple needs. He also seeks to identify the point at which change becomes loss: How do people deal with losing places they love? How are we to remember or restore lost places? By presenting Glen Canyon as a historical case study in exploitation, Farmer offers a cautionary tale for the future of this spectacular region. In assessing the necessity and impact of tourism, he questions whether merely visiting such places is really good for people's relationships with each other and with the land, suggesting a new ethic whereby westerners learn to value what remains of their environment. Glen Canyon Dammed was written so that the canyon country's perennial visitors might better understand the history of the region, its legacy of change, and their complicity in both. A sobering book that recalls lost beauty, it also speaks eloquently for the beauty that may still be saved.

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