In the 1950s, with the proposal of a dam upstream of the Grand Canyon for water storage and hydroelectric power generation, many environmentalist groups rallied to prevent the inundation of the largely undeveloped canyons in the upper Colorado River watershed. The Sierra Club and its leader, David Brower, were instrumental in blocking the proposed Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument, but ignored Glen Canyon in the process. Before Glen Canyon was flooded in 1963, but after the struggle in Congress, Brower and many others floated the Colorado River through the canyon and realized the tremendous resource it was. Over 80 side canyons in the colorful Navajo Sandstone contained clear streams, abundant wildlife, arches, natural bridges, and numerous Native American archeological sites.
By then, however, it was too late to stop the Bureau and its commissioner Floyd Dominy from building Glen Canyon Dam. Brower believed the river should remain free, and would forever after consider the loss of Glen Canyon his life's ultimate disappointment. The 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 Resevoir. For Brower, it steeled him for the battle over a proposed dam in the Grand Canyon.
American writer Edward Abbey also documented his experience exploring Glen Canyon from the Colorado River prior to the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in his 1968 memoir Desert Solitaire, in the chapter titled "Down the River".
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