A researcher commissioned to document historical sites in Glen Canyon avoided criticizing Lake Powell for the history it buried, but admitted ambivalence about the subject this week.
C. Gregory Crampton, author of "Ghosts of Glen Canyon: History Beneath Lake Powell," presented a slide show and narrative on Glen Canyon historical and cultural sites as part of a guest lecture series.He said he has enjoyed recreation on the lake many times since the dam was built in 1963, but the experience has yet to measure up to what the Colorado River offered before it was flooded.
A former University of Utah history professor, Crampton was commissioned by the National Park Service in 1957 to document cultural and historical resources in Glen Canyon and the San Juan Arm of the Colorado River Basin.
During a slide-show narrative sponsored by the new Dan O'Laurie Museum, Crampton recalled the wonders of Glen Canyon, occasionally noting how deep the waters buried certain sites of historical significance.
Lake Powell filled to capacity in the early 1980s and was designated a national recreation area along its 186-mile shoreline. The lake attracts hundreds of thousands of water recreationists annually and still stirs controversy in some circles because of the history that was lost.
"I look at the whole thing with some ambivalence because I know what's down there," Crampton said.
Crampton said that today he hears regrets about Glen Canyon Dam from environmentalists. Yet, as noted in his book, at the time of construction there seemed to be little objection from conservationists to the dam at Page, Ariz.
Opposition at the time focused on a proposed dam site at Echo Park on the Green River, because of its proximity to the Dinosaur National Monument, Crampton said. That dam was never built.
Crampton traveled Glen Canyon 13 times for his official survey. He said the University of Utah salvaged what it could of archaeological remains in the upper canyons and the Museum of Northern Arizona worked in the lower half of Glen Canyon and the San Juan Arm of the Colorado River Basin.
"They salvaged a lot of arrowhead points, pottery and so on. But when it came to such things as pictographs and writing on the walls, you couldn't do much for that," he said.
Crampton said he found 200 significant historical sites.
More than 2,000 Anasazi and Fremont Indian sites - rock art, granaries and dwellings - dissolved as the lake rose, Crampton said.
Among significant historical sites inundated were the 1776 Crossing of the Fathers (Dominquez and Escalante); Music Temple, a site where explorer John Wesley Powell and his party members' names were chiseled into rock; prospector Cass Hite's driftwood cabin and gravesite; the "grand old man of the Colorado" Bert Loper's hermitage and the Loper Ruin Anasazi pueblo; the Robert B. Stanton gold-mining dredge; and Hall's Crossing ferryboat operation.
In Moab, he was philosophical about a dam being built at a place once considered for national park status.
"As the world grows, you're simply going to have to dig into the environment," Crampton said.