Monday, January 10, 2011

GC's National Monument # 2: Gestation, 1927-31 (slight add'n 1/11)

The struggles over Grand Canyon National Park boundaries in the 1920's were more dispiriting than uplifting. However, some of that effort was grounded in the real experiences of NPS managing a real Park. And those real experiences generated among Park staff a sense of excitement about the lands they administered and a growing knowledge about other appropriate and appropriatable sections of the Grand Canyon. 

When the Salt Lake Tribune ran an article about the Toroweap region in March 1927, it described how spectacular it was, how hard to reach, and how it could be a winter-time tourist destination when the Kaibab was snowed in. There were herds of wild horses, and a route down to the Colorado. The article was based on a visit by Utah's Governor Dern and party. They were enthusiastic, and stopping in Zion NP, infected Sup't Scoyen, who earlier had been chief ranger at GCNP. Dern saw this "most magnificent part of the Great Gorge" as a point in Utah's chain (though it was in Arizona) of scenic attractions. The cinder cone, Vulcan's Throne, was his reference point for suggesting an area about 3x5 miles on the north  be set aside. He wanted to protect such a desirable area from private exploitation, which might make it harder for Utahans to benefit. So in May, he asked the General Land Office to withdraw Toroweap Valley. A federal law did allow local folk to petition for recreational lands to be set aside. GLO referred the idea to Mather, who asked GCNP Sup't Tillotson if there was any information. He also queried the USGS' Darton, who replied in June that the area of great scenic interest was lower Toroweap, leading to a 3000' sheer wall down to the river. Vulcan's had an especially good view of recent volcanic outbursts, with lava cascaded over the edges. He also mentioned Lava Falls. Neither Tillotson nor Mather followed up.

Two years later, in March 1929, Scoyen and his chief ranger finally made the trip, though he did not send his written report to DC until Jan 1930. Six pages long, with a few photos, the report makes one salivate with the joy of discovery, of an adventure in a remote region. But lets pause a moment to see where we are. For orientation, here is the Arizona Strip region from a 1970's ACSC "Indian Country" map:

My arrow points down Toroweap (or Tuweep) Valley -- which is really a canyon filled by lava flows and sediment -- toward the point where the sheer 3000' wall drops to the river. The roads, then as mostly now, were not paved, but this was not deserted country. There were several ranches,  quite a bit of patented land, and the town of Trumbull (or Bundyville) to the west was trying to thrive; water was scarce. Livestock, in its thousands, was not. The people population was not dense, but the area was a resource hinterland for the communities to the north. Remoteness was not an absolute, but a relative, term. There was no GCNM or Lake Mead NRA; they were signs of a coming modernity that would define remoteness as a place far from home; in the 1920's, remote was what the settlers thought their homes were. 

Scoyen's report is animated enough to deserve being presented in full, so I have made it a separate entry here. Briefly, he and his ranger drove south, passing east of Mt. Trumbull, and down Toroweap to the Canyon's edge, where he "received the greatest thrill of my life". He described close-by features, quoted Dutton's "Tertiary History", and was drawn by the far-off vistas. One conclusion: "I am not at all certain that the correct thing (in making GCNP) was done in leaving out sections which have exhibits like Toroweap", yet "it is only a small section of a wonderful area which starts at the present boundary of the GCNP and continues to the final break in the canyon walls at the Grand Wash." Dellenbaugh told him "the area above Diamond Creek and below the Shewits is the most wonderful of all the parts of the great gorge, especially from the standpoint of sensational views." Scoyen went on to speculate that the Shewits (now Shivwits) may have better tourist possibilities than Toroweap. [I would add that 80 years later the thrill of the day-long rough, rough ride down the Shivwits to Kelly Point and its panorama is still sensational, a peak of the backcountry exprience the Arizona Strip still provides.] To Scoyen, the entire area was possibly "a National Park area of the first magnitude". Well yes. 

The DC office lauded this "fine report", and Director Albright passed it on to J.C. Merriam, who noted his and others' opinion that Toroweap ought to be used for its scenic value; there should be further study. The report was sent to the appropriate Assistant Interior Secretary, and Scoyen was told further study was possible. Whether connected or not, a Secretarial aide named Sawyer had in Dec 1929 suggested an 8000 (sic, maybe 6000?) sq. mi. Virgin National Park that would include all the land north of the Colorado and west of Kanab Creek (give or take). He cited many of the area's features, from Zion to Boulder Dam, Kanab to the Grand Wash,  the Hurricane Cliffs and the Uinkarets (Mt Emma had "the finest canyon view"), Toroweap and the many volcanic remnants, Mt. Dellenbaugh. This idea was also referred to Albright, who responded in a month, but negatively. He pointed out that it would include a reservoir, contrary to the spirit of our law about park use. There was lots of grazing, too, and "alienated land", as well as the Kaibab Reservation. However, smaller areas like Toroweap might be worth further investigation. So Scoyen's Jan 1930 report was most timely. 

Interior Secretary Wilbur in turn responded in Mar 1930 that he was much impressed with the possibilities for national preservation of land near the Boulder Project. It should be held for the public; it was largely public land and unique in character. Lets keep it within the Park System, and move for legislation to retain its original beauty. It may not be of Park significance, but it warrants careful study. So, in April 1930, President Hoover, by Executive Order 5339, withdrew a huge swath of public lands (a more likely 4212 sq. mi.) for classification pending determination as to a national monument. The area withdrawn went downstream from the Park and included parts of the Hualapai Reservation. Here is a map from the time, the outer red dashed lines outlining townships withdrawn. The north boundary of the Hualapai Reservation is also marked. The base map not having been updated, the GCNP boundary is the 1919 Park.

A press release emphasized the "interesting series of boat trips" on the reservoir that would give "stupendous views" of the Colorado's "great gorge". An Arizona paper attacked the action as punishment for opposing the Boulder Project. Utah's Dern wanted the withdrawal revoked, and the legislature protested because of the grazing: 25,000 cattle and 200,000 sheep. 

Mar 1931, Sawyer in the Secretary's office, prodded NPS to get going, referring to "his" Virgin NP idea; pressures were building with the dam. After some intra-office embarrassment, R.W.Toll, the primary inspector of proposed park areas in the West* was sent to visit the area. He took a trip with Las Vegas businessmen. They discussed a scenic highway that would follow the Colorado's canyon rims for several hundred miles, from the Kaibab to St. Thomas(a ghost town on the Virgin arm of Lake Mead). Toll described such a road in a May 1931 report, but opined that while the area should be administered by NPS, it ought not to be made into a Park or Monument. NPS asked Reclamation about working together on the area, and how it felt about a Monument. In October, however, an NPS report on possible additions referred only to the Scoyen report. 

Meanwhile, a stock driveway running down Toroweap Valley had been withdrawn in Apr 1929, and throughout 1928-31, there were stock-raising homestead entries made along the valley and around Mt. Trumbull (then in the Kaibab National Forest). The names of the Schmutzes, Cunningham, Kents, the Craigs, Sullivan, Iverson, and several others to be heard from marked the land books. So when we pick up the action in 1932, these usual suspects will be in place, joined by Reclamation, flush from their Boulder Project success.

Sources: NPS in NARA, RG 79, DC office
*According to NPS's web history. He was also Yellowstone superintendent.

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