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Glen Canyon

Glen Canyon is a canyon that is located in southeastern and south central Utah and northwestern Arizona within the Vermilion Cliffs area. It was carved by the Colorado River.

A reservoir, Lake Powell, was created by the Glen Canyon Dam. Lake Powell emerged from a struggle over damming Dinosaur National Monument. The Sierra Club and its leader, David Brower, were instrumental in blocking the dam in Dinosaur. In exchange, they accepted a dam in Glen Canyon. Before the canyon was flooded, but after the struggle in Congress, Brower floated the canyon and realized what a tremendous resource it was. This experience transformed Brower's attitude towards environmental preservation, making him more radical and less likely to compromise. It was very similar to the experience of John Muir with the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. For Brower, it steeled him for the battle over a dam in the Grand Canyon. Beginning in the late 1990s, the Sierra Club and other organizations renewed the call to drain Lake Powell in Lower Glen Canyon.


Pre-dam history and rescue archaeology

Glen Canyon

Around 1956, archaeologists and biologists from the University of Utah and the Museum of Northern Arizona, using National Park research grants, planned an emergency excavation of Lower Glen Canyon, which was soon to be flooded by the new Glen Canyon Dam. Between 1958 and 1960, four investigative phases, combined with other surveys prior to 1957, discovered 250 sites. Beginning in 1958, the Lower Glen Canyon survey was finished. Excavations began during the summer on 16 sites.

A thesis emerged that the prehistoric people living permanently on the highlands south of Glen Canyon, and on the Cummings Mesa, farmed the Lower Glen Canyon on a seasonal basis, and gathered raw materials. To prove this thesis of seasonal habitation, criteria such as architectural units, locations of trail systems, occurrence of ceremonial structures, prevalence of burials, and position of natural and cultural strata. Four types of sites are described in the survey classified as either open sites situated on rock terraces; talus sites on broken material below cliffs; shelter sites in protected areas under overhanging cliffs; and cliff sites beneath ledges or in caves and canyon walls. Open sites are the majority on both sides of the river. The majority of sites, mostly Navajo camps, feature lithic garbage or ceramics, or both. Talus sites are rarely recorded.

Most of the cultural remains found are chipped stone tools (lithic materials), including projectile points, scrapers, drills, knives, choppers, and ground stone tools and manos (grinders). The collection of sherds are mostly Tusayan Gray Ware and Tusayan White Ware. Petroglyph panels are found throughout Glen Canyon. “Pecked and incised figures depict mountain sheep, human figures, birds, human handprints and animal tracks. Geometric figures range from circles and spirals to highly complex rectilinear patterns. The human figures have triangular bodies. Painted figures have been reported for both sides of the river.... Petroglyph panels of such quality are lacking from the highland regions adjacent to Glen Canyon” (Long 61).

Studies indicate a chronology for the Lower Glen Canyon prehistory, “from pre-A.D. 1 to the 15th century and recorded history from 1776 to the present” (Long 61). The best documented period of the canyon is between A.D. 1050 and 1225. A separate Basketmaker II culture is represented by several sites. Radiocarbon dates from charcoal material are from A.D. 250 to 440 (plus or minus 80 years). Basketmaker III is not found in the Lower Glen Canyon, but is documented in Navajo Canyon, a large left bank tributary of the Colorado River, within the geographical area of the Lower Glen Canyon (Long 62). Basketmaker III introduces fired pottery, mostly Lino Black-on-gray and Lino Gray, and some small amounts of Lino Fugitive Red and Obelisk Gray.

Pueblo I remains are found at Rock Creek in Lower Glen Canyon, and in Navajo Canyon. The pottery types are Kana-a Black-on-white, Deadmans Black-on-red, and Kana-a Gray, made from deposits found in Lizard Alcove. Pueblo I is the best documented period of Navajo Canyon, beginning in 800 A.D, lasting 200 years. Basketmaker is believed to have lasted later than Pueblo I. “Pueblo II in Navajo Canyon is represented by the absence of Kana-a Black-on-white and the dominance of Black Mesa Black-on-white” (Long 62). Pueblo II and early Pueblo III is the best documented cultural area in Lower Glen Canyon corresponding with habitation on Cummings Mesa. Pottery includes mostly Tusayan varieties, Black-on-white, Black-on-red, and Red Wear Polychromes.

In the 14th century, Hopi people from the Jeddito area came into the canyons, represented by Yellow Wares, mostly Jeddito Black-on-yellow, and Jeddito plain. This represents the entire prehistoric record for Lower Glen Canyon. Recorded history begins with the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776. Cultural similarities are based on the presence, or absence, of certain types of ceramic wares. (Long 63). Group types of pottery include Kayenta (Tusayan and Tsegi Orange Ware), Virgin (San Juan Red and White Wares), with Fremont, and Mesa Verde or Anasazi types of White and Desert Gray Ware found mostly on the right bank of Colorado. Basketmaker II is characterized by a lack of pottery, and above ground and underground cists lined with slabs.

There is very little evidence of permanent occupation except at Talus Ruin, a small pueblo with a kiva, a ceremonial structure, made mostly of masonry, featuring jacal walls of sticks and reeds set in mortar in a single row of masonry. The presence of metates are evidence that campsites with slab-lined hearths being inhabited for longer periods. Agricultural structures are not found in the main lower canyon, and no formalized fields are found in the main canyon because of alleviation and slope wash burying (Long, 66). Houses, when found, were mostly sandstone slab with mortar, having one to seven rooms. “Well constructed mealing bins which usually denote permanency were lacking in the Lower Glen Canyon. In contrast, on Cummings Mesa at Surprise Pueblo, there was one entire room devoted to mealing bins…” (Long 65). In the highlands, granaries were near or incorporated into permanent Pueblos, compared with smaller ones near temporary sites in the Canyon (Long 66). “Home Base” pueblos in the nearby highlands on Cummings Mesa and Paiute Mesa are believed to support the temporary farming and the hunting parties who used an extensive trail system in the main canyon, still in use today.

“Stone tool manufacturing appears to have been an important industry for the entire Glen Canyon region, perhaps one of the major reasons for occupation” (Long 66). Cryptocrystalline rocks fill the Pleistocene gravel beds on the Carmel platforms. Scattered lithic tools and materials indicate workshops of various sizes. There is a lack of siliceous material in the highlands, but tools are found there made from the gravel beds in the river.

There are very few ground stone artifacts, such as manos, metates, and scrapers, found in the main canyon, since these tools are mainly found in the highlands. In the main canyon, a large number of chipped implements, ranging from small arrowheads to large knives, are found. Finished tools, and possibly blanks taken to the mesa, were probably used for trade. Most of the ceramic material found in the main canyon was probably made in the highlands, although it is possible some pottery was manufactured in Lower Glen Canyon. Clay deposits are found along the river, and some crude pottery specimens, that may have been made there. Only four burials were found in Lower Glen Canyon at three sites. Trash dumps are not very common at most sites. This is more evidence to suggest the seasonal occupation of hunters and farmers.

See also


  • Jennings, Jesse D. Glen Canyon: An Archaeological Summary. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1966, republished 1998. ISBN 0-87480-584-8.
  • Long, Paul V. Jr. Archaeological Excavations in Lower Glen Canyon, Utah, 1959-1960. Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin No. 42 – Glen Canyon Series No. 7. The Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art (Flagstaff, 1966)

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area article)

From Wikitravel

North America : United States of America : Southwest : Utah : Canyon Country : Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Lake Powell
Lake Powell

Glen Canyon [1] is a vast United States National Recreation Area in Utah's Canyon Country.


Glen Canyon is an mind-bogglingly vast canyon in deep red rock country, which has been filled with North America's largest man made lake, Lake Powell. Surrounded by nothing but red slick rock, the crystal blue lake is strikingly out of place and looks like it belongs on Mars. Lake Powell would be totally deserted were it not for its popularity with house-boat owners, who sail around this dead and beautiful expanse. The desert surrounding the lake is mostly uninhabited except for grazing long horn steer, jackrabbits, and lizards.

Get in

Getting into Lake Powell pretty much requires a boat launched from a local marina, as the lake is surrounded by steep sandstone cliffs—that is, unless you are very ambitious.

Get around

By guided tour

A number of companies provide guided tours of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell that include transportation from the surrounding areas. Some companies will provide bus travel from nearby towns while others begin in the Glen Canyon/Lake Powell Area. Some will provide just a brief tour with small stops, while others may take you on a hike, and arrange all your meals.

  • Hydros Adventures Tours, 928-310-8141. [2] Offers one day and overnight hiking, rafting, backpacking, and adventure tours to Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the Grand Canyon, Northern Arizona, and Southern Utah. Pickups in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon area.


Rainbow Room, Lake Powell Resort, 100 Lakeshore Drive, Page, AZ 86040. With a stunning 180 degree view of Wahweap Bay, this fine dining establishment is open March 15 - October 31 for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Glen Canyon is definitely BYOB territory and you had better bring gallons of water for your trip.



Most all lodgings on or near Glen Canyon are located in Page, which is two miles away from the lake on top of the butte.

  • Defiance House Lodge, Bullfrog, UT. 435-684-3000 or 800-528-6154. 50 Rooms, Anasazi Restaurant and Lounge. Family Units, small boat rentals.


Wahweap RV Park & Campground at Lake Powell, Lakeshore Drive, Page, AZ 86040. 888-272-7191. Located in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this is one of the nicest campgrounds in the National Park System. With a stunning view of Wahweap Bay, there is an eco-friendly campground store, coin operated showers and laundry room. All camp sites have charcoal grills and picnic tables. Only a short distance to boat launch ramps, swim beaches, boat tours and small boat rentals.


The Park Service requires that you register before camping in the backcountry, mostly just so that they know who is where when in case of an emergency. But while it is in your best interest to do so, registering is pretty much optional as the area is very lightly patrolled and pretty much anywhere is a campsite.

Stay safe

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has a severe desert climate and it is very dangerous to head out into this wild expanse without proper preparations and gallons of water. If you are the least bit unsure as to what constitutes "proper preparations," visit a National Park Service visitor center before heading into the backcountry.

If driving in the area, carry extra gas and plan your route to take into account the very long distances between gas stations. If driving on dirt roads, be aware of your limits (and your car's), and prepare for the possibility that either the road could wash out in the case of a storm, or that your car could break down dozens of miles from civilization, with no cell phone service, in the unforgiving desert climate.

As with most of Canyon Country, flash floods are a sporadic, but ever-present danger. Be sure to avoid parking in a wash and never head into a canyon before checking the current weather report—far-off rainstorms will flood canyons even if they are miles away from the downpour.

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Simple English

Glen Canyon is a canyon that runs from Utah to Arizona, in the United States. It was carved by the Colorado River, which flows to the Pacific Ocean many miles away. Most of it is flooded by Lake Powell, created by the Glen Canyon Dam. The reservoir is highly controversial, and in recent years many environmentalism groups have called for its removal.

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