Sitting above the Colorado River in extreme north central Arizona, Page began in 1956 as a housing camp for workers building the Glen Canyon Dam. The following year, some 24 square miles of Navajo land was exchanged for a larger tract of land in Utah and the little housing camp later to be called Page was built. Surveying of streets began immediately, and trailers were placed in rows across the mesa. Development continued as progress was made on the dam. The Bureau of Reclamation remained the governing power of Page until removing itself in 1974. The town’s citizens voted and became incorporated the following year. Page was named in honor of Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John C. Page.
Construction of Glen Canyon Dam began in 1956 and was completed in 1963. The building of the dam has been considered controversial because the nearby basin, now known as Lake Powell, and the surrounding natural habitat would ultimately be flooded by the Colorado River. The 710 foot wall of concrete that is Glen Canyon Dam was erected with almost ten million tons of concrete and seven years of effort from dedicated workers.
Lake Powell is named after the explorer and part-time geologist, Major John Wesley Powell. This Civil War veteran lost his arm in the battle of Shiloh, but never let his physical disabilities stand in his way. He lead two successful expeditions (1869 & 1871) down the Colorado, completing nearly a 1, 000 mile journey through the uncharted canyons and wild rapids of the Colorado River. By surveying and mapping his journeys through the area, Powell charted a course for the opening of the American West for future exploration. Lake Powell is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States (the largest is Lake Mead being held back by Hoover Dam near Las Vegas). When Lake Powell is at full pool, Glen Canyon Dam will hold back nearly 26, 215, 000 acre-feet of water (one acre-foot of water is enough water to sustain a family of four for one year).
The waters of Lake Powell and the Colorado River are a vital life source to the people of the southwestern United States. Seven states and Mexico receive water from the Colorado River due to the Upper and Lower Basin Compact signed in 1922. The Upper Basin states consist of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. The Lower Basin includes Arizona, Nevada, and California.
Today, Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell help fulfill the goals of water storage and hydroelectric power for the southwestern states. In addition, Lake Powell and the pristine waters just below the dam, attract nearly 3 million visitors annually. The Glen Canyon area has become one of the country’s premier recreational sites.
The city of Page is adjacent to the Navajo Nation, the United States’ largest Native American Tribe. The Navajo reservation contains more than 16 million acres (27, 000 square miles) and extends into Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Today the Navajo Nation is home to more than 250, 000 registered tribal members.
Prehistoric Native Americans
While prehistoric peoples, including the Ancestral Puebloans, are long gone from Glen Canyon, a good deal of evidence of their lifestyle remains. Through study of relics such as pottery, basketry, architecture and burial methods, we are able to piece together how they may have lived and what they may have believed. Across the Four Corners region, there are thousands of examples of Native American rock art. During the course of a smootwater float trip with Colorado River Discovery, you will be able to visit one of these protected petroglyphs panels as part of the itinerary.
In the latter part of the 13th century, most of the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and other communities were abandoned. Soil erosion, climate changes, and other factors may have caused the exodus of the Ancestral Puebloan people and their migration south, forming the civilization that eventually became the modern Hopi people. The current Hopi Reservation, southeast of Page, is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States.
In 1982, the California Condor was functionally extinct, with only 22 birds remaining in existence. An aggressive plan was needed to capture, breed, and reintroduce the mighty condor back into the wild. The California Condor project, headed by the Peregrine Fund, was formed in the early 1990s with supporting partners from the National Park Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, Southern Utah’s Coalition of Resources and Economics, the Grand Canyon Conservation Fund and scores of others who have donated countless hours and needed revenue for this vital project.
The reintroduction of these majestic birds was started in 1996 with a pair of fledging chicks. Wild reproduction began in 2003 in the Grand Canyon. The population in the Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon regions now numbers over 70 condors and accounts for nearly half of the wild population since reintroduction.
The success of the Condor Recovery Program has allowed visitors for the first time in decades the opportunity to see these endangered birds to soar free.