Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Green River: Another Place 'no one knew'

                                          Flaming Gorge.
GLEN Canyon isn't the only place "no one knew."
In northeastern Utah, the lost canyons of the Green River also fall into that category, thanks to 502-foot-high Flaming Gorge Dam.
Roy Webb, a University of Utah archivist, said few seem to care or realize what lies below Flaming Gorge Reservoir. "Glen Canyon was not the only place no one knew," he said.
Speaking on the "Lost Canyons of the Green River" at the Western History Association's 48th annual conference in 2008 at Salt Lake City, he outlined some of what has been buried in the cold waters.
"The Green (River) is now unfortunately forever changed," he said, noting the reservoir was completed by 1964, after construction began in 1958.
Lost was the town of Linwood, Utah; the Buckboard Hotel (built in 1912 in between Linwood and Green River, Wyo.); Ashley Falls, a legendary river rapid; Beehive Rock; the lowlands of Carter Creek and much of the wildlife and trees in the river bottoms.
Webb said deer, bear, many birds and other wildlife all lived at the river level, now covered by the dam's waters. Essentially, the greatest beauty of the canyon seemed to be in those bottomlands, he said.
Much of the timber was salvaged before President John F. Kennedy activated the dam's generators by remote control from Salt Lake City on Sept. 27, 1963.

When asked why no one seems to care about the losses at Flaming Gorge, Webb mentioned three reasons: the area was less accessible than Glen Canyon; the Forest Service controlled much of the area and the dam was powerfully supported by Utah and Colorado governments.
The government's view was turning the natural menace of the Colorado River there into a natural resource, he said.
Today, Flaming Gorge is a playground for millions, with river running, boating and fishing. He also noted that the area is "where river running started in Utah."
Of many open stretches of water downstream from the dam, Webb said little has changed in the 165 years since John C. Fremont and Kit Carson first explored there.
"It's just as unknown as 1843," he said.
Two other historians, James M. Anton and Steven L. Gerber, also spoke on the history of Green River country Thursday.
Both noted how the area was extremely inaccessible and yet it attracted many characters from outlaws hiding out to cattle and sheep ranchers. Unlike most of Utah, it was non-Mormons who settled there independently and not in groups.
Anton, a professor at Southern Utah University, said no one lives in the Desolation Canyon area of the Green River today. Only river runners frequent the area, meaning its greatest population was in the past.
"The canyon in fact became more desolate," he said of modern times. "The landscape became a playground."
"In my view, it was doomed from the beginning," Gerber said of ranching residences in Desolation Canyon.

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