A Hike To Heaven

This morning we drove to Lee’s Ferry (which is a part of Glen Canyon) and prepared breakfast beside the Colorado River. After breakfast, we began our journey up Spencer’s trail which went up the canyon wall. By the time we reached the top, we gained 1630ft for a total of 4660ft at the summit. Once we reached the summit, we discussed the effects of the nearby power plant on the environment, wildlife, and the native people. The power plant is privately owned sending water to Phoenix and Tucson. The coal used to power the plant is the purest coal in the nation, but is found on the Navajo reservation. The power plant causes a few issues in the surrounding area including the water usage used to cool the coal that wastes Colorado River water, the haze produced affecting the view, and the pollution of the fossil fuel affecting the environment. Due to the negative effects of the power plant, the Environmental Protection Agency has required the power plant to reduce their emission by 2018 and eventually lead to it closing down.

Once we returned to our starting elevation, we made lunch and enjoyed the view of the Colorado River. After lunch was packed up, we learned about the effects of the Glen Canyon dam on the fish population both native and non-native. Since the dam has been built, the ecosystem of the river has shifted, below the dam the temperature of the water dropped compared to the water above the dam. Native fish like the Humpback Chub survive best in cooler water compared to other native fish. Since the introduction of the Rainbow Trout the two have been in competition because of limited resources. During our discussion, we brainstormed ideas to increase the native populations of Humpback Chub. Ideas included fish hatcheries, full removal of the Rainbow trout, and increasing food sources like macroinvertebrates. All ideas would help to increase native populations of fish, but can be costly and go against the beliefs of the Navajo people.

After a very cold lunch, we hiked through Cathedral Wash which is a nearby canyon to Lee’s Ferry. Unlike the morning hike, there was no clear path and at some points required hands and knees. When it rains the canyon becomes a small river that flows into the Colorado River. After the hike we went back to Lee’s Ferry for a taco dinner. Once we got back to the lodge we discussed the fish of Lake Powell and how dam has affected the ecosystem. The fish of Lake Powell and Mississippi River have grown similar in variety. The dam separates the lake from the river creating two entirely different ecosystems. The native fish of the Colorado River play an important role in the food chain of the surrounding area. Native fish used to be at the top of the food chain, but due to the introduction of the Rainbow Trout the food chain has been altered resulting in trout eating premature chub. This has led to the chub being endangered. In order to keep the native biodiversity in the southwest, we must actively be aware of our environment and the ways we maintain it.

Marble Canyon cliffs