Drowned River

The Death and Rebirth of Glen Canyon on the Colorado

Author Mark Klett

In 1963, the waters began rising behind Glen Canyon Dam and 170 miles of the Colorado River slowly disappeared as the riverbed and its surrounding wild canyons filled with water. The dam was considered a long term transformation of the land, and environmentalists mourned the loss of Glen Canyon, a natural wonder, as dead and gone forever. But it’s coming back, in a victory that is also the pervasive disaster of climate change. There isn’t enough water in our new age, and so the world that drowned half a century ago is reappearing. The starting point was Eliot Porter’s landmark book of color photography, "The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon the Colorado," published by the Sierra Club in 1963 as a political statement about what had been lost under the dam’s waters and why it should never happen again. The ending point is the reemergence of the river and the rise of questions about climate, the fate of the southwest, the folly of human endeavors to control nature, and the possibility of seeing these places and problems in new ways. "Drowned River" is a book about climate change, but also about how photography can describe beauty and trouble simultaneously, about depth and shallowness, about what it takes to understand a place and to come to terms with the enormous scale of the changes we have set in motion.


Mark Klett is a Regents’ Professor of photography in the School of Art in ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Drown River book cover
Date published
Radius Books

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