"Glen Canyon was an Eden unequalled anywhere on earth. The lesson [is] to not let this happen to your Eden, wherever it may be..."
Review of: All My Rivers Are Gone: A Journey of Discovery Through Glen Canyon by Katie Lee
Invoking the Colorado River Gods
Katie Lee's book, All My Rivers Are Gone (Johnson Books, Boulder, CO) should be read by all wilderness lovers. It beautifully invokes what it is like to have the freedom to explore one's deepest values within the intimacy of nature's rapture. Sadly, this freedom is increasingly diminished by the commercial clutter of a river that is increasingly being managed as a theme park for the wealthy.
In conjunction with the book, Katie has also released two CDs/cassettes: Colorado River Songs is a compendium of all the river songs Katie has written, collected and sung on river trips. Glen Canyon River Journeys features Katie reading excerpts from the book and singing river songs.
Katie's works are paeans to the "wild, sacred heart" of a paradise lost. She was the third woman to run the rapids in the Grand Canyon. For more than a decade, she regularly ran Glen Canyon before it was buried under trillions of tons of water in 1962. Her book recreates the beauty of the Glen, describes the characters that lived there, and tells how it changed her life.
"My trips through Glen Canyon and the river that ran through it gave me an understanding of myself, my talent and its limitations; taught me about intimacy and the value of observation. Together they resurrected my spirit and melted my heart with their beauty; showed me time was not my enemy, and, with their power to entertain, mystify, and nearly kill me, diluted my ego to its proper consistency. The Glen gave me roots as tenacious as the willows along its banks." (Lee)
Katie describes how river runners got to the put-in at what is now Hite Marina after driving for hundreds of miles on lonely roads, loaded supplies in their oar boats, and shoved off down river. No pay-for-play permits. No competition for camp sites. No helicopter racket. No buzzing of jet skis. No waterproof river maps. No nothing. Just the smell of a silt laden river, the lilt of the canyon wren, fern grottos, sandstone, and that incandescent canyon light which Katie so beautifully captures in prose.
"Light sets the stage for canyon mood changes. Forever ongoing. . . I enter a space of "quiet light" where no direct sunlight falls, yet is lambent-a liquid light that comes from all around and underfoot. Far out of sight overhead, it has ricocheted down and spread itself in ways that confuse the senses. It gets so weird in here sometimes I think I'm hearing the light, smelling the temperature and feeling the sound." (Lee)
In All My Rivers Are Gone, Katie recreates the joy of going down river with only cherished friends: creating a schedule according to feelings; the private banter and jokes; the exuberance of walking and swimming naked; and the love of discovery and exploration of a wilderness largely unknown, since many of the canyons hadn't heard footfalls since the Anasazi. She and her friends snaked up steep walls on the narrow Moki steps; swam (and nearly drowned in a deep pot hole); and named many of the side canyons: Driftwood, Cathedral, Dangling Rope, Dungeon, Grotto, Little Arch.
Oh, to have heard Katie sing in Music Temple, the first "real" church she ever sang in.
"A song can be heard from beneath that dome to the river, nearly a half mile away. A nostalgic spot, so full of whispers of the past, so lovely-the pool, the stone estrade, the bank of ferns and columbine backing the pool, hanging baskets of them overhead clinging to a seep, and the sandstone spire twisting mysteriously out of sight way above, from where pours a crystal ribbon of water that drops musical notes into the pool." (Lee)
Throughout the book are the treacherous undercurrents of impending doom-the disbelief at the early rumors that a dam would be built and the futile attempts to protest, an action Lee describes as "trying to put out a wildfire with a teacup." There are excerpts of the correspondence between her and Barry Goldwater, who recanted his position in the 90's.
Today, Katie's invocation to the River Gods to let the Colorado River run free has been given new life by The Glen Canyon Institute. Although the idea of draining Lake Powell is instantly condemned by those who earn a living from it, the reasons why it should be are scientifically sane and, after reading Katie's book, aesthetically eloquent.
Review by Diane Rapaport (first published Grand Canyon Private Boater's Association Journal, February 1999), Amazon.com.
Author, photographer, performer and one of the Southwest's most outspoken conservation activists. Winner of the Glen Canyon Institute's David Brower outstanding environmental activist award.
Contact Katie Lee
Katie Lee, born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, is a legend among Western conservationists and river-runners. As an actress in Hollywood (Gunsmoke, The Great Gildersleeve, and several movies) in the 1950's, she began running the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon.
When a dam was proposed to flood incomparable Glen Canyon, she helped lead the fight against it. Since the dam was built, she has been an irreverent, fiery, uncompromising force for protection of wild rivers and wildlands. She's long been a popular folk singer and has several albums, including her latest DVD Love Song to Glen Canyon. Her books include Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, All My Rivers Are Gone, and Sandstone Seduction.
(Organizational affiliations listed for purposes of identification only.)