Saturday, March 20, 2021

No, Its Byron Who is Stuck -- Up On the Facts

 The fun of working over this old history stuff (and yes! it does matter) is it is like beachcombing, walking back and forth, picking up and turning over what looks like nothing much, and finding: Oh! wow, what about this?

My main charge against Byron Pearson’s history (2 books, 1 cranky anti-environmentalist hypothesis) is that even with the additional 20 years between his first and the re-tread, he still never did the major research he needed to do: No Colorado archives, none from California, none from Washington, and so on.  Does that matter? Try this:

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Stuck With Byron

I suppose I am stuck with Byron Pearson. 

Well, rather, the literature about the Grand Canyon, and specifically attempts to authorize dam-building in it, is stuck with Byron Pearson. I admit I am culpable; I should have written the necessary rebuttal when he published Still the Wild River Runs in 2002, four years after he had been awarded his Ph.D. upon completing the dissertation that led to the book. 

Friday, March 5, 2021


A while ago, I wrote a book tracing the great effort the Park Service made in the 1970’s to sculpt a Grand Canyon National Park river traffic management plan that would solve the various crises besetting the Colorado and its riverine environment.* 

As the sixties ended, river traffic was out of control, numbers  increasing hugely; the river with its beaches and shores, being soiled, trashed and re-trashed;  the experience of a wild river trip, a wilderness river trip, battered and shattered by more and more motorized push-em-thru shortie thrill rides; the Park Service bewildered by this ravenous new profit-making invasion. 

Friday, April 3, 2020


                             By Jeffrey Ingram   2019 - 2020    
       Grand Canyon National Park in Its Regional Setting
           Chapter 1: 1882-93; Beginnings and Reflections
Two 1882 letters about the Grand Canyon exist between John Wesley Powell, Canyon explorer and new Director, United States Geological Survey:

and Benjamin Harrison, freshman Senator from Indiana, later, President of the United States:

There may have been more letters; --almost certainly were, in the 1880's. On Powell's side, however, fire in the early twentieth century destroyed the pertinent archives of the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) under his directorship. And Harrison's collected correspondence contains nothing about the Canyon. Nor is there any other evidence of a relationship between the two. Yet these men -- Powell leading, Harrison taking the actions -- together constructed the founding political framework in which debate about a Grand Canyon National Park took place over the next 40 years and beyond. How did this partnership, so obscured, so fruitful, come about?

In trying to answer that question, and the multitude of others that have arisen from human efforts to gain control, exploit, enjoy, and yes, celebrate the Grand Canyon, we will see a multitude of people swirling about, often just briefly, some for decades. However, I wanted my view not to get stuck on personalities of individuals; for many, the Canyon was peripheral to their main concerns. Yet in taking the actions they did -- for better or worse, heroically or villainously in effect-- they placed themselves in the service of our attempts to cope with the astounding, the astonishing, physical fact and universal environmental meaning of the Grand Canyon. People's actions are my ingredients here; the Canyon is the grandest of banquets, a feast in which many have participated; contributions sometimes delightful; other dishes, unpalatable.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Counterfactual: History Game-Playing


There are the what-if games played with history; there are the erroneous, even willful, interpretations. Byron Pearson's Saving Grand Canyon is fatally flawed as an academic history by the latter -- his failed book-long rant at environmentalists, and in particular the Sierra Club as the Grand Canyon's saviors.

Playing the what-if games, however, I have found an intriguing and educational antidote, since they permit an examination of the roles of various actors under conditions that did not quite prevail. For instance, it is a linch-pin of any solid understanding of the 1965-8 legislative history of the Colorado River Basin Act to understand the multi-diimensional influences that gave Washington's Democratic Senator Henry Jackson, Interior & Insular Affairs Committee Chairman (and there are a bunch of those influences in that titling) his central position in shaping the legislation. So, suppose we take out of the CRB legislation story Jackson's position and convictions and motivations and support. Suppose that there had been no central figure from the Northwest, Jackson or another. Suppose, that is, that the political balances in the Senate were much like those in the House, where Northwest Representatives were eloquent and determined, but of little impact on the Arizona-Colorado-California alliance that drove the process. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Hockney and travel, a personal note

There is much to be said for travel. I have travelled; I am a traveller. The Canyon is an anchor, a universe: I have travelled about in it, through it, across it, been within it.
There is no jet lag in the Grand Canyon.

The Navajo-Park boundary: scene of a land grab or beneficial cooperation?


The location of the western Navajo Reservation boundary along the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers is a matter vexed by the usual plethora of crisscrossing land actions and overlain by the responsibility of the federal government to behave in ways mindful of its ethical duties toward the Navajo and the Grand Canyon.

I have written, at great length, a comprehensive chronological and topical examination of these issues (
Here I wish to state the matter as it stands today, cutting through the Gordian knot presented by the history of those land actions: