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Know the West

Profound noise reigns

  Three decades ago, says musician Paul Winter, solitude was easy to find in and around Grand Canyon. Some of his award-winning recordings feature wind, ravens and other natural sounds from the national park. Not these days.

When Winter and guide Fran Joseph of the Grand Canyon Trust went to a spot this fall where the reverberation was the same as in a cathedral, with sounds lingering for seven seconds, the sounds of aircraft constantly intervened.

"If noise was the equivalent of smell, people would be up in arms," says Winter of the experience. Stationed above Lee's Ferry and below Glen Canyon Dam, Winter's engineers were forced to stop recording up to eight times an hour. "You get used to challenges in the wilderness, like wind and storms, but this time we met our match."

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue new rules regulating canyon overflights by the end of the year. Marble Canyon, a few river miles below where Winter tried to record, could be declared a flight-free zone.

" Jim Bishop