The Glen Canyon Dam is many things to many people: an engineering marvel, an essential source of power and water, a creator of jobs, a desecration, an outrage. Its turbines generate electrical power for thousands of homes and businesses, and the reservoir behind the dam, Lake Powell, supplies water for thousands more. The dam’s construction spawned the town of Page, Arizona, from scratch. Over its half century life, the lake has become a treasured spot for boaters and fishermen and the center of a thriving recreation industry.
But to many people, the dam - begun in 1956 and dedicated in 1966 - is a tragic mistake. The lake’s rising waters inundated thousands of Native buildings and art sites. Along with the earlier Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon forever altered the wild flow of the Colorado River and its complex ecosystem. The dam and its reservoir (which some call “Lake Foul”) have become flashpoints of the modern environmental movement, inspiring protest, activism, and literature.
Students in Westminster College’s History 365, Utah and the West class created this exhibit from undigitized sources held at the Utah Research Center for State History and State Archives. We endeavored to include a wide variety of materials - photographs, film, documents, and artifacts - that reflect the complexity of the dam’s past, present, and possible futures. We hear from people who support the dam and some who oppose it; the benefits that the project has provided and the costs those benefits bring. We are indebted to Melissa Coy, Digitization Program Specialist, for leading us through this project.
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Roberto Martinez IV
Kian J. McInnis
Professor of History, Westminster College
Digitization Program Specialist, Utah Division of State History