History of Glen Canyon Dam Area

This rugged combination of land and water had been home to early Desert Archaic people and later Ancestral Puebloans for many centuries before Powell made his epic 1869 descent of the Colorado.The river and its deep canyon had long been an obstacle to the few travelers who passed through the region since the coming of the first white explorers and settlers.

Far downstream, the returning Dominguez-Escalante party spent nearly two weeks searching for a place to cross the Colorado before finally chopping steps into the sandstone to descend to the river at what became known as the Crossing of the Fathers. In similar dramatic fashion, the Hole-in-the-Rock pioneers breached the canyon just above the junction with the San Juan River.

A member of the Hole-in-the-Rock party, Charles Hall, found a more practical crossing point about 35 miles upstream from Hole-in-the-Rock, where he started a ferry between what is now Hall’s Crossing and Bullfrog Basin. This was the main Colorado crossing point until Cass Hite established a ferry and post office at approximately the spot below the overlook. The ferry and the town of Hite were covered by current Lake Powell.

The dual purposes of the Glen Canyon Dam project (completed in 1963) were electrical energy and water management.

The widening of the backed-up Colorado and its tributaries (notably the San Juan and Escalante) inundated thousands of acres of what had once been shoreline and branch canyons. Opponents of the project cited the loss of geological and archaeological treasures, but downstream cities have benefited from water access and today the transformed landscape supports a large recreation and tourism community.

It really is a new landscape, with nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline. Today’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was established in 1972 to preserve the river and nearly a million acres of adjacent desert country for public recreational use.

As popular as Glen Canyon is with boaters, it is remarkably undeveloped, partly because this is all public land. The landscape may be appear barren to some, but remember that it’s naturally barren, unspoiled by shoreline development.

Enjoy scenic boat tours, hiking, stand up paddleboarding and other activities on Lake Powell and the stunning shoreline.

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