Friday, October 23, 2009

Another map; a further reflection

These comments use a map from 1967 put out by the Southern California Automobile Club, one of the best cartographic organizations I know. My purpose is to use it for a further exploration of the mindsets we had and we faced in the 1960's and 1970's. 

Maps showing GCNP and the Kaibab National Forest north and south of it as depicted here would have been much the same since the Park was created in 1919. Grand Canyon National Monument (the second) was a 1930's creation. Lake Mead N.R.A. dates from 1964. The boundary shown here, including the northern portion of the Hualapai Reservation, is incorrect. The Hualapai rejected being included, having their own ideas (see the Sep 27 entry about the visionary, Mahone). The Havasupai Reservation was still miniscule, and although the dam fight was not concluded, the damsites are not shown. Other road maps were not so bashful, like the Shell map I remember from that time, with Bridge damsite a strong black mark across the river. However, Bridge Canyon is labelled, just south of the word "AREA" in the western Canyon.

That was the map we faced and were used to. Insofar as the Grand Canyon is a human concept of a natural construct, it was quite constricted, having no beginning and no ending, its river split among seven jurisdictions, mostly open to exploitation. GCNP and the Kaibab NF represented the pared-down vision of Powell, the pink Park defining, for almost everyone, the Grand Canyon as a spectacular "hole finally giving us a place to dump all our used razor blades in" -- I think thats from Frank Waters' book on the Colorado. 

Forty years ago, with no concept of the entire Canyon's length of 277 miles, dam promoters could claim the dams would not even be in the Grand Canyon. Conflating the Canyon with GCNP was common, and it was the genius of Martin Litton to convince the Sierra Club to defend the place, not just the Park. 

At Mather Point, NPS had a big signboard back then, defining the Canyon for millions of visitors as being the pink Park shown here. I still have the letters I wrote in the 1970's trying to get the Park Superintendent to recognize the full Canyon, to get a depiction that could begin to give viewers a sense that the huge space they were looking at was way less than half of the complete Grand Canyon. Even after the 1975 Park Act defined the Canyon in its entirety, NPS and the Board of Geographic Names did not likewise expand their view. No surprise. Pyne, in "How the Canyon Became Grand" rehearses the changes in our appreciation all the way from Ives-Egloffstein fearing and detesting the profitless landscape to our own glorifying and glorying in it. The Canyon doesnt care; it is ourselves at stake in the discussions, debates, and decisions that shape how we care for the Canyon. Or not.

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