More cultural sites have been revealed, presenting new challenges to land managers as well as opportunities for new archaeological research.
As Lake Powell began to fill in 1963, the Sierra Club published a best-selling coffee table book that featured photographer Eliot Porter’s images of Glen Canyon.
The book’s title, “The Place No One Knew,” framed a narrative that would find its way into future conservationist elegies for the Colorado River canyon in southern Utah.
Glen Canyon, the story went, was in such a wild, remote part of the United States that nobody — from lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to Bureau of Reclamation engineers to activists like then-Sierra Club director David Brower — fully understood what would be lost when the Glen Canyon Dam was authorized by Congress in 1956.
Bill Lipe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Washington State University, said that while cliff dwellings tend to get the most attention from visitors, the majority of cultural sites in Glen Canyon did not feature free-standing walls, even before Lake Powell.
Lipe was a 23-year-old graduate student in 1958 when he arrived in Glen Canyon to lead a field crew of archaeologists to survey ancestral Puebloan sites that would soon be inundated by the reservoir.
“It was a challenge,” Lipe said, “and an opportunity to actually make a contribution to knowledge in an area that was just incredibly exciting just to be in.” Lipe’s project was an exercise in what is sometimes referred to as “salvage archaeology,” a race against the dam builders downstream.
Find out more