Tom Ross: Called by canyons of the southwest
February 25, 2012
Steamboat Springs — It was through the wonders of social media today that I learned a casual Facebook friend has pulled a permit to float the Grand Canyon. All I can say is, point our bow at trouble and pull away with the oars.
The fifth anniversary of my own Grand Canyon float in March 2007 is fast approaching, and I hate the feeling that it is receding into memory. I can vividly recall that on the last day of our trip, I was promising myself that my life had changed and I wouldn't let go of the profound sense that humans are intended to embark on great adventures often in their lives.
Preserving that feeling has proved to be elusive in the past five years. You know, life gets in the way.
But it's not a bad time to remind myself that in the mid-1960s, the late conservationist David Brower successfully crusaded against a pair of dams that would have created lakes in the Grand Canyon.
And much earlier in 1955, Brower was among the conservationists who lobbied Congress to save a desert river much closer to our homes. Together, the conservationists were able to block the Echo Park Dam, where the Yampa River reaches its confluence with the Green River.
Flaming Gorge Dam forever has changed the mighty Green in extreme northeast Utah, about a four-hour drive from Steamboat. And I would be a hypocrite if I didn't acknowledge the many times I have enjoyed the unnatural trout fishery below that dam.
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But I'm also eternally grateful that Yampa Canyon remains undammed and the Yampa remains among the least-dammed desert rivers in the American West. Below Echo Park, the merged rivers are referred to as the Green, but it's the Yampa that still rises and falls naturally with the rhythm of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains.
The Green where it issues from Flaming Gorge is a cold, clear river that is beautiful to look at but no longer belongs to the environment it created.
I won't be floating the Grand Canyon this year or next, but perhaps I can find another canyon adventure.
You don't need a permit to hike the Grand from rim to rim.
And if you want to read more about Brower, who was the first executive director of the Sierra Club and founded Friends of the Earth, consider John McPhee's "Encounters with the Archdruid." I borrowed a copy from the library of Adams State College.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com