Glen Canyon Dam

Written by on June 17, 2015 in AZ Attractions - Comments Off on Glen Canyon Dam

Stretching for hundreds of miles from Lee’s Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers a world of wonder for visitors. With 1.2 million acres of golden cliffs, lush hanging gardens, impossibly narrow slot canyons,and the brilliant blue of Lake Powell at the heart of the canyon, there are amazing things to see and do in Glen Canyon.

Perhaps the most magnificent site is Glen Canyon Dam. On October 15, 1956, the first blast took place that began the construction phase of Glen Canyon Dam. The remote location was selected because the basin behind the dam would be able to contain an immense amount of water and the canyon walls and bedrock foundation were strong and stable enough to safely support the high dam. It took more than five million cubic yards of concrete to build the dam and connecting power station — that’s enough to build a four lane highway from Chicago, Illinois to Phoenix, Arizona. The power plant generates more than 1.3 million kilowatts of electricity — 6% of the power generated in Arizona and 13% of the power generated in Utah. This natural source of green energy is equivalent to 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide waste if the energy were generated using a traditional coal or oil power plant.

A tour of the dam is a fantastic experience! The dam is 710 feet high, is 1,560 feet long, 25 feet wide at the crest or top of the dam, and 300 feet wide at the base. The dam is constructed in an arch shape. The tour begins at the crest of the dam, 638 feet above the Colorado River with panoramic views downstream and a great view of Lake Powell. An elevator will take you 528 feet deep into the interior of the dam, including a stop at the digital counter that registers the money collected from the sale of power generated by water driven turbines. The tour starts at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam. You can also take a photo tour of Glen Canyon and Antelope Canyon.

After nearly 40 years of operation, an environmental impact study was completed on the effect downstream of arresting the natural flow of the Colorado River. Prior the construction of the dam, periodic flooding of the Colorado would wash away sandbanks and renew others, while scouring the river and removing tons of sediment. Stopping the natural flow caused all kinds of issues … invasion on non-native species, build up of sediment, changes in animal habitat and much more. Because of the study, the park service and the crew of the dam simulated a natural flood in 2005 by releasing large amounts of water from Lake Powell. The results were inconclusive and more studies are underway.

The Bullfrog Visitors Center, just north of Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell, is a terrific place to learn about the geology of the canyon, as well as the Ancestral Pueblo people who called the canyon home for thousands of years. Glen Canyon has been periodically used by a variety of humans for roughly 11,500 years. Literally hundreds of Native American sites were buried under tons of water when the dam was created, although many sacred sites remain. A famous quote from the Sierra Club sums up what was lost…

“Glen Canyon died, and I was partly responsible for its needless death. Neither you nor I, nor anyone else, knew it well enough to insist that at all costs it should endure. When we began to find out, it was too late.” (From the 1963 Sierra Club book, The Place No One Knew, edited by Brower).

When you visit Glen Canyon dam, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice made to ensure clean water and power for the southwest, as well as to mourn the history forever lost to us.

From boating to hiking, scenic drives to mountain biking, there are no end to the outdoor activities near Glen Canyon Dam. The canyon is an endless playground of amazing geologic features just ready to be explored.

There are plenty of places to camp near the dam, including Lees Ferry as well as Lone Rock Beach, Stanton Creek, Hite, Dirty Devil and Farley Primitive Camping Areas. The nearby town of Page, AZ offers dozens of lodgingicon, dining and shopping opportunities.

Other attractions in the area include:
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Bryce Canyon National Park
Natural Bridges National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument

Glen Hayden Visitors Center
Phone: 928-608-6404
Tours of the Dam: 928-608-6072

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
PO Box 1507
Page, Arizona 86040
Phone: 928-608-6200

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