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Know the West

Glen Canyon Voices

  Glen Canyon is such a compelling intellectual topic because it is full of contradictions: It has been destroyed, and yet a movement is afoot to bring it back … it was a place perhaps equal in grandeur to Grand Canyon, and yet it was dammed and inundated with only the faintest puff of dissent; it is despised by many in its present form, and yet fiercely loved in this form by many more.

— Mathew Barrett Gross,

The Glen Canyon Reader

Glen Canyon, which now lies mostly under Lake Powell, is often called “the place no one knew.” In truth, many writers, miners, adventurers and Boy Scouts knew this lost treasure intimately, and The Glen Canyon Reader, edited by river runner Mathew Barrett Gross, is a collection of their musings.

The chronological collection includes excerpts from The Domínguez-Escalante Journal (1776) and John Wesley Powell’s Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons (1875), as well as essays by such Western notables as Zane Grey, Ed Abbey, Wallace Stegner, Barry Goldwater, David Brower and John McPhee. There is even an article by Floyd Dominy, the man responsible for damming the canyon. Essays by lesser-known writers provide poignant reading fodder for those already well-versed in Glen Canyon lore.

Although many of the canyon’s natural wonders lie hidden beneath water and rising sediment, Gross suggests that the places that do remain visible should remind us that it is possible to reclaim what once was.

The Glen Canyon Reader

By Mathew Barrett Gross 210 pages, softcover: $17.95. University of

Arizona Press, 2003.