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In the Shadow of Glen Canyon Dam

June 30th, 2010

Rios Libres, a team of passionate and talented folks from the Southwest who are fighting to “keep Patagonia wild”. © James Q Martin

by Chris Kassar

6,170 miles. This is the distance between Flagstaff, Arizona and Puerto Bertrand, Chile — the town closest to the source of the Rio Baker. This creates a formidable gap (the equivalent of driving from Boston to San Diego and back) between where many of us live and the rivers we are fighting to protect. Why then, are five folks from Flagstaff and two from Colorado so damned concerned about a river and a watershed that are so far from home?

The simple answer is this: we believe rivers should flow freely — from source to sea — as nature intended. But, there’s more. We are also motivated by the missteps made in our very own backyard. We live in the shadow of Glen Canyon dam —  aka “America’s most regretted environmental mistake” and we constantly grapple with ‘what could have been’ if this place had not been lost. This dam stands as a beacon, reminding us of a past heartbreak and calling us to action in order to prevent others.

The Baker, one of Chile’s wildest and most voluminous rivers is threatened by the power of big business. © James Q Martin

The lessons we have learned from the tragedy at Glen Canyon have made many of us in the Southwest unwilling and unable to stand by and allow the same mistakes to be made again, even in remote regions that are thousands of miles away. Despite the geographic distance between where we lay our heads and Patagonia, our connection to these rivers is strong and the need to stand up for them remains close to our hearts.

Recently, a few members of the team re-visited Glen Canyon Dam bringing with them newfound knowledge and experience as a result of our trip in Chile.

Luminary writer, Craig Childs standing in the shadow of Glen Canyon Dam. © James Q Martin

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