As the Colorado River coming down from the high Rockies in Colorado state carves a deep canyon through the Arizona desert, it is met by the Little Colorado, coming from dryer country in Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico – bottom right in the picture.
Approaching the confluence, the Little Colorado River carves an extremely steep and narrow gorge into the Colorado Plateau, eventually achieving a maximum depth of about 980m. The depth of the canyon is such that numerous springs restore a perennial river flow.
It joins the Colorado deep inside the Grand Canyon, miles from any major settlement. The confluence marks the end of Marble Canyon and the beginning of Upper Granite Gorge.
It’s a remote and peaceful place which can only be reached by river craft or by a long steep hike into the canyon.
Some developers thought it would be a good idea to put 3km of cable cars or ‘aerial trams’ and walkways down from the South Rim to the confluence, aiming to transport ten thousand paying guests a day down to this special place which they could then reach without effort, scoff fast food at a McD or KFC joint and zoom up out again. They planned the hideous Grand Canyon Escalade:
They planned to ruin a special place. Luckily Canoe & Kayak Magazine reports the Navajo Nation Council voted 16-2 against the development proposal on 31st October 2017. The proposal by developers Confluence Partners from Scottsdale, Arizona, also included a 420-acre commercial and lodging “village” on the rim, huge restrooms, an RV park, gas station, helipad, restaurants, retail shops, motel, luxury hotel, the ‘Navajoland Discovery Center’ and additional infrastructure.
Under the proposal, the tribe would be on the hook for an initial $65 million investment for roads, water and powerlines and communications, while providing a non-revocable 20-year operating license including a non-compete clause. In return, the Navajos would receive just 8 percent of the revenue. A “totally one-sided” and “rip-off” proposal, it met with a cold reception since project lobbying began seven years ago. Even after lengthy debate during the council’s special session led to significant amendments, overwhelming opposition to the project remained, prompting council delegates to pound a stake through its heart.
“We never said we were against economic development but, please, not in our sacred space,” activist Renae Yellowhorse from Save the Confluence said afterward. “We’re going to always be here to defend our Mother, to defend our sacred sites.”
Greedy developers, including some Navajo leaders, aim to try again, so vigilance is called for. Bottom line: There is no need for casual in-and-out tourists to ruin a special area when they can see pictures, videos and even 360º videos – even live footage – without crowding and ruining the place. We must be careful not to turn genuine natural areas into theme parks! We cannot re-create these places. They are not movie sets, they are real, often sensitive, ecosystems.
When we got there in 1984 the rivers were running strongly, the Colorado at 50 000cfs, clear from deep in Lake Powell, and the Little Colorado running rich red-brown (“colorado”) from a flash flood upstream. Here you can see the waters starting to mix. From here on we had brown water all the way to Lake Mead.
And Colorado River water should be brown: Colorado means “ruddy, reddish.” Literally “colored.” Past participle of colorar “to color, dye, paint.” From Latin colorare.