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The Other Side of the Argument

Looking Down Water Slide, Warm Spring Canyon, Lake Powell, Utah, September 24, 1965  (P1990.51.5375.1)  

The United States government's Bureau of Reclamation argued that damming Glen Canyon would control the flow of the Colorado River, provide water storage, and be a source of hydroelectric power for cities in the growing West. An added benefit was a beautiful 176-mile-long lake, called Lake Powell, that would serve as an easily accessible recreation area and would boost tourism in southeastern Utah. As a result of the dam, the town of Page, Arizona, prospered and provided food and lodging for tourists visiting the new lake.

Glen Canyon Dam won the “Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award for 1964” and the 700-foot-high bridge next to the dam was awarded the “Most Beautiful Bridge Award” in 1960.

In April 1965, the Government Printing Office released a thirty-page promotional pamphlet titled Lake Powell: Jewel of the Colorado. In it, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation Floyd Dominy, who led the Glen Canyon Dam project, wrote about the beauty of Lake Powell and proposed future dams in the Grand Canyon. The pamphlet also combined photographs of Lake Powell with poems written for the occasion:

To have a deep blue lake
Where no lake was before
Seems to bring man
A little closer to God.
I sing a song for common man
Desk-numbed and city trapped;
Now free — now hearing clearly
Great chords of healing solitude.

Lake Powell: Jewel of the Colorado was meant to counter two books: Time and the River Flowing by Francious Leydet (a document of a trip down the Colorado beginning at Glen Canyon Dam) and The Place No One Knew.


“[Glen Canyon Dam] is food for growing America, drinking water for dwellers in an arid country, electric energy to provide the comforts of life and to turn the wheels of industry....Most significant of all, however, it is health and fun and the contentment of contemplating Nature's beauty for thousands who might never experience these thrills of the outdoors if engineers had not inserted between the steep walls of Glen Canyon a mammoth concrete slab to control and clear the erratic river that used to be known as the Big Red.

Composing a Subject Expression Through Color The Place No One Knew
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2002 Amon Carter Museum