Travels with Susan Spano

Utah Canyon Country

Flatrock on top Fifty Mile Canyon, Utah

Exposing Utah's Depths

From Glen Canyon Bridge on U.S. Highway 89, you can see both sides of an argument. To the north is placid Lake Powell, a big, blue tropical cocktail in the arid no man's land of southeastern Utah. It's Exhibit A in the case for letting 42-year-old Glen Canyon Dam stand. To the south is the Colorado River, testily emerging from impoundment, cutting through sheer rock walls on its way to the Grand Canyon, wild and free, the way nature made it.

I stood there with my brother, John, in early February, thinking about Seldom Seen Smith, the fictional mastermind of a plot to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam in Edward Abbey's 1975 novel, "The Monkey Wrench Gang."

Smith, Abbey wrote, "remembered the golden river flowing to the sea ... canyons called Hidden Passage and Salvation and Last Chance ... strange great amphitheaters called Music Temple and Cathedral in the Desert. All these things now lay beneath the dead water of the reservoir, slowly disappearing under layers of descending silt."

The book has achieved cult status among lovers of canyon country and conservationists continue to call for the dam's removal. But now nature in the form of a blistering six-year drought may decide the fate of Lake Powell.

The last time the reservoir was full -- at 3,700 feet above sea level -- was in July 1999. Since then the drought has lowered the water level 144 feet, leaving the reservoir at about 33% capacity, shrinking the length of the lake from 186 miles to 145 miles and gradually re-exposing something remarkable underneath: the arches and spires of Glen Canyon. People travel halfway around the world to see the canyon of China's Yangtze River, doomed by construction of Three Gorges Dam. So was it any wonder that John and I felt compelled to go backpacking in little side canyons on the fringes of Lake Powell, where the water is rapidly receding? It was a chance in a lifetime to see something that couldn't be seen five years ago and may not be seen five years from now.
Read More

The Los Angeles Times, 4/​3/​05

Selected Works

Nonfiction, Travel, Human Interest
A new collection of travel essays by Susan Spano
Article
Tracking Colette in Paris and Burgundy
A draught sinks Lake Powell, revealing lost wonders of Glen Canyon
Rome's Most Roman Neighborhood
Studying Mandarin in Beijing
Around the world and back to New York
Nonfiction Book
Divorce. Why do we do it? And what does it do to us? fourteen prominent writers have pondered these questions and have set down heir thoughts and personal stories, in this gathering of sometimes irreverent and always intelligent essays. "A disarmingly candid, invaluable collection." --Publishers Weekly
"Anyone who doubts that men, too, suffer in divorce should be required to read this." --Glamour Magazine "A rare, unusually focused anthology of original essays that both entertains and instructs." --Publishers Weekly