Rainbow Bridge
Administrative History
NPS Logo

Making It Work: Monument Development, 1910-1955 (continued)

In terms of contemporary issues, the administrative life of Rainbow Bridge NM from 1945 to 1970 was dominated by the proposal and construction of Glen Canyon Dam. However, plans to dam the canyons near Rainbow Bridge began early in the monument's life, long before the Colorado River Storage Act which authorized Glen Canyon Dam. Reclamation as a federal management philosophy was codified in law in June 1902 with the passage of the Newlands Reclamation Act. The spirit of reclamation infected the West. With so many rivers, the western states were ripe for reclamation projects that would bring paradise to the deserts. This belief in science controlling nature to the betterment of American lives was the driving force in the Bureau of Reclamation throughout the first sixty years of the Bureau's existence. By 1914, tens of millions of dollars were spent trying to irrigate the West through reclamation.

This spirit of reclamation made the 1920s a significant period in the official life of Rainbow Bridge NM. The states that comprised the Upper Colorado River Basin wanted more control over the development and distribution of Colorado River waters. To this end the Upper Basin states lobbied Congress for the right to form a compact of states and employ the doctrine of prior appropriation as it was codified in law in the 1922 case Wyoming v. California. The doctrine of prior appropriation held that whoever developed a water source for beneficial use first held permanent rights to that water—first in time, first in right. The Upper Basin states proposed a series of dams, funded in part by the Bureau of Reclamation, to help secure water from the Colorado River for the benefit of the Upper Basin. But there was no comprehensive map of the Glen Canyon region to aid in deciding possible dam placement. To this end, the U.S.G.S. conducted a mapping project of the Colorado River basin and Glen Canyon. Included in the U.S.G.S. survey were Bridge Creek and Aztec Creek. When the project was finished in 1923, Rainbow Bridge and its monument environs were part of the topographic data base. [167] The other significant result of the survey was the publication of the first plan to erect a dam in Glen Canyon and reclaim the meandering Colorado River for the benefit of the Upper Basin states.

As the water needs of southern California expanded, the Upper Basin states knew that reclamation was their only hope of making use of the waters of the Colorado River. One man working for the United States Geological Survey also believed the Colorado could be reclaimed. In 1916, Edward Clyde (E.C.) LaRue, chief hydrologist for the U.S.G.S., was convinced that reclamation and control of the Colorado River could be accomplished. LaRue favored a location somewhere in or near Glen Canyon. His first vision of a dam for the Colorado was a two hundred and forty-four foot gravity dam just below the mouth of the Paria River near Lee's Ferry, Utah. But LaRue changed his mind after taking part in the 1921 general mapping survey of Glen Canyon. After seeing the length of the lower Colorado River as it passed through Glen Canyon, LaRue proposed a 780 foot dam be built four miles upstream from Lee's Ferry. His larger proposal would generate a reservoir of 50 million acre feet of water. LaRue thought this could be effectively accomplished by simply blasting the walls of Glen Canyon and modifying the resultant massive choke-stone of debris into a Glen Canyon dam. LaRue published his proposal a year after the completion of the general mapping survey. [168] Twenty years later, when the Bureau of Reclamation and others looked seriously at plans to dam sections of the Colorado, LaRue's idea was revived and formed the nucleus of the Colorado River Storage Project's plan for a Glen Canyon unit.

Charles Bernheimer's book Rainbow Bridge, as well as his various expeditions, revealed the vast diversity of the environs of Rainbow Bridge NM to a growing audience. That same audience also watched as the Upper Basin states signed the Colorado River Compact in 1922. The purpose of the Compact was no secret; dams were to be erected along the length of the Colorado River. Reclamation as a working philosophy was very popular in the West. Reclamation meant jobs, resources, and most importantly, control of the future distribution of the West's most valuable resource. Water had always been the most important issue in the Western states and the Compact reinforced that belief. Bernheimer, among others, recognized the possibility that dams could go up throughout Glen Canyon. To protect his beloved Rainbow Bridge, Bernheimer began a campaign in 1928 to lobby Congress to modify the monument's status to national park. He wrote letters to members of Congress, as well as NPS Director Stephen T. Mather, [169] Bernheimer also solicited the support of The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. This would be the first of many such schemes to make Rainbow Bridge a national park.

Acting Director Arno B. Cammerer replied to Bernheimer and others by pointing out the realistic problems of changing Rainbow Bridge to a national park: the lack of local infrastructure; the rugged terrain surrounding the monument which precluded development of roads and campgrounds; and the uncertain status of the surrounding lands. [170] Cammerer and others recognized the delicacy of dealing with both the Navajo Tribe and the San Juan Southern Paiute over the issue of land acquisition. The Paiute Strip, which surrounded the monument, had changed hands many times by 1928 and had only recently (1922) been returned to the public domain. At nearly the same time that Bernheimer proposed his plan, pressure was growing from many quarters to return the Strip to the local Navajos and Paiutes, and the Park Service did not want to jeopardize that process by attempting to accession more acreage in pursuit of a Rainbow Bridge national park. [171] By 1930, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was in the process of preparing legislation for Congress to return the Paiute Strip to Navajo control. Believing this transfer was a foregone conclusion, the Park Service did not seriously consider most early proposals to modify the monument's status. [172]

Proposals to make Rainbow Bridge a national park were not limited to the geographic boundaries of the Paiute Strip. Charles Bernheimer proposed another park, comprised of three sections, that was significantly larger than his 1928 vision. In 1931, despite the imminent return of the Paiute Strip to Navajo control, boosters formulated plans to create a Navajo National Park. The proposed park included all of the Paiute Strip, Navajo NM, and Natural Bridges NM. On the map it resembled a giant east/west diamond with Navajo Mountain near the center. Bernheimer lobbied tirelessly for his dream park. He obtained the support of the Clark Wissler and The American Museum of Natural History. [173] There was immense popular support for such a park. Letters poured into the Park Service's various offices between 1931 and 1933. The Salt Lake City Telegraph reported, "In the plans, the new national park will extend from Utah into northern Arizona, and will include the following: Rainbow natural bridge, Navajo national monument, the Goosenecks in the San Juan river, Monument valley, the Utah natural bridges [national monument], and Arch canyon." [174] The supporters of this new park were getting press as well as official interest. But even as support grew, one problem remained the same: the land in the proposed park was almost entirely controlled by the Navajo Nation. The only land that was not under their direct control (the Paiute Strip) soon would be.

In March 1931 the Park Service investigated the possibility of establishing the proposed Navajo National Park. To that end, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent M.R. Tillotson and Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Roger W. Toll conducted a fact-finding trip to Rainbow Bridge country. Their conclusion was somewhat path breaking. In their assessment they vehemently supported establishing a Navajo National Park. Toll wrote, "this proposed national park would have great interest to the American public because of its unusual features of ethnology and archaeology, as well as because of its unique and remarkable scenic qualities." [175] The Park Service clearly recognized the diverse cultural makeup of the region surrounding Rainbow Bridge and thought it significant enough to include ethnology as reason to protect the region via national park status. This was exceptional thinking given the political climate in which Toll wrote this report. At nearly the same time that Toll and Tillotson toured the Navajo reservation, BIA administrators met in Washington, D.C. to finalize plans for large-scale reductions of Navajo sheep herds, a federal policy that most Navajos detested. Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier was an anathema to Navajos at large and especially to the Navajo Tribal Council. This feeling was so intense that a majority of Navajos voted against Tribal incorporation under the Wheeler-Howard Act just because Collier supported a federally approved Navajo constitution. [176] Federal involvement in the lives of Navajos at any level was not popular with members of the Tribe in the 1930s. Regardless, the Park Service supported a Navajo National Park because they thought would benefit everyone involved.

As part of a larger trip to the West, Director Horace M. Albright made his way to Rainbow Bridge and Navajo Mountain in late July 1932. At this time, John Wetherill was still the custodian of both Rainbow Bridge and Navajo NM. Prior to his trip, Director Albright corresponded with both Charles Bernheimer and Frederic A. Stearns. Bernheimer and Stearns tried to coax Albright into staying with and employing the Wetherills during the Rainbow Bridge leg of the journey. [177] There were still factions at work near the bridge, and those factions were divided along guide services. The Wetherills had long been thought of as the rightful heirs to the mantle of Rainbow Bridge tourism. After all, it was John Wetherill who "found" the bridge. Some locals thought of the Richardsons as intruders who made their living by capitalizing on the trail-breaking hard work of Wetherill and Bernheimer. Geographic proximity finally settled the argument. When Albright visited Rainbow Bridge in July 1932, he employed the Wilsons at Rainbow Lodge rather than Wetherill. The Director's aides selected Rainbow Lodge based on its fifteen-mile distance from the bridge. The Director was on a tight schedule and could not afford a ten-day pack trip that roamed all over the region. The Director was so impressed by Rainbow Bridge and the nearby lodge that he wrote to Katherine Wilson thanking her for their accommodations. Albright even offered support to the Wilsons, saying "I hope we [the Park Service] can find some way of helping your enterprise." [178] The Depression was in full swing and business was slow. Any kind of support, especially from the Director of the National Park Service, was welcomed by the Wilsons.

Director Albright's 1932 trip definitely augmented popular support for the idea to modify Rainbow Bridge's monument status along the lines of the Bernheimer plan. After seeing the region first hand, Albright was convinced that a national park in some form should exist near the Four Corners. But the Park Service's desires could not keep pace with the political climate in which they existed. Because of the demands of the Depression, Congress was more inclined to employ men and women to improve existing units of the national park system, rather than create new units. Between 1925 and 1928, twenty-one new national monuments were established by Presidential proclamation. In the first years of the Depression, between 1929 and 1932, only eight monuments were added to the national park system. [179] In addition to the economic chaos that eclipsed the Park Service's hopes, Congressional sentiment toward Native Americans was reaching crisis. At the same time that John Collier was arguing for Navajo stock reduction, Congress was debating passage of the Wheeler-Howard Act, commonly known as the Indian Reorganization Act. The mood of the first Roosevelt administration was one of conciliation toward Native Americans. Based in part on the liberal tendencies of the administration and the deplorable conditions revealed in the 1928 Meriam Report, that mood became the inspiration for letting the Navajo Tribe keep its ancestral homelands intact. [180] As a result of these forces, Congress returned the Paiute Strip to Navajo control in 1933. Negotiating an exchange of lands between the Navajo Tribe and the Park Service in this climate was unlikely. There would be no Navajo National Park during the Roosevelt administration. With the status of Rainbow Bridge's environs stabilized temporarily, public interest in exploring the monument for its scientific diversity grew to new levels.

There was much activity at the monument in the mid-1930s. Between 1933 and 1935 three separate scientific expeditions went into Rainbow Bridge NM and the surrounding environs with the express purpose of collecting sizable and accurate data on the area. These expeditions were organized by numerous professionals and largely without Park Service assistance. But the Park Service benefitted directly from the expeditions. The defined intent of the 1933 expedition was to provide "authentic and unbiased information which will be of both scientific and practical value to the Government and may help to form the basis for any plans which may be projected for the future administration of the area." [181] Ansel F. Hall, Chief of the Park Service's Field Division of Education, served a dual role in the Rainbow Bridge explorations. While the Park Service was not officially in charge, various Service employees (such as Hall) were involved in the expeditions. Due to the enormous financial strains of the Great Depression, NPS involvement was cursory; men like Hall administered all their expedition duties, such as planning or participation, on their own time and without using NPS resources. Hall led the 1933 group while on vacation from his post with the Park Service. The expedition was guided and supplied by John Wetherill. Since this was not a tourist endeavor, Wetherill was chosen for his knowledge of the terrain and ingenuity as a packer. The expedition was conducted as a cooperative effort and did not benefit from federal funding, since the Depression had made "unnecessary" scientific endeavors low funding priorities. The members of the expedition, teachers and students that came from universities across the nation, paid their own way to Kayenta and their share of the overall expedition costs. Certain transportation and technical services were "donated" by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Forest Service. Additional funding came from private monies provided by various academic institutions. [182]

The expedition considered itself to be a preliminary reconnaissance. The group members, including Hall, knew there would have to be investigation of the area beyond the 1933 season. Regardless, the initial trek yielded impressive results. The 1933 expedition had specific goals for each category of investigation. The engineering members generated a detailed map of the Rainbow Bridge Trail (from Rainbow Lodge) and of the monument itself. Numerous members of the group conducted a complete physiographic study of Rainbow Bridge and its immediate environs. One group mapped the trail from Rainbow Lodge into the monument. Another group mapped Bridge and Forbidding Canyons. Geologists and engineers analyzed the physiographic history of the bridge and tried to construct an accurate picture of how the bridge evolved. The team members also ranged across the region, doing archeological field work at Puebloan sites in Tsegi Canyon as well as investigations related to paleontology, ornithology, and botany. Of major importance was the commitment to collecting primary ethnological data from Navajo and Paiute informants. This ethnological data centered around each Tribe's perception of itself as well as individual Tribal histories related to the immediate vicinity of Navajo Mountain, religion, and place names. [183]

After 1933, the effects of Collier's reorganized BIA could be felt even in remote field settings like the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley expedition. Because the Navajo Tribe voted to exclude itself from reorganization under the Wheeler-Howard Act, no funding could be secured for an ethnologist to accompany the 1935 expedition. The language of Wheeler-Howard prohibited funding for ethnological research on any tribe that exempted itself from reorganization. This was a real blow to the expedition and the Park Service. Reliable data regarding local Indian populations was sorely needed during the critical 1930s. But the Navajo unwittingly exempted themselves from ethnological study in their rejection of reorganization. [184]

The 1933 field work at Rainbow Bridge yielded interesting scientific and cultural results. Ansel Hall claimed in his summary report that the intent of the expedition was to provide raw data that could be used at a later date. In the introduction and conclusion of the report, Hall couched all of the rationale for the expedition in terms of the probability that the region would become home to a new national park. The field work continued during the summers of 1934 and 1935. Each of the successive years was marked by cooperative efforts between individuals and federal entities. Between 1934 and 1935 there was continued talk of developing some larger national park along the Rainbow Bridge corridor. These proposals were generally met with hesitancy by the Park Service, as the status of the land surrounding the existing monument was always at issue. Relations between the Navajo Tribe and the BIA and NPS did not improve very much in the 1930s. Interested parties like Bernheimer, who were outside the scope of federal control, were not privy to the pertinent data that made a larger national park seem unlikely. Senators and Congressmen, researchers and buffs were all in favor of simply declaring the larger Glen Canyon basin a federally managed area. They pointed to the exceptional findings of the various summer expeditions that validated the region's unique scientific and scenic value. But the Park Service knew that the area would not be wrested from Navajo control without serious opposition or lopsided concessions. [185] Hall, as subtly as possible, continued to "quietly" lobby for expansion of Rainbow Bridge's boundaries or the creation of a new national park in the area.

In 1936, Congress passed the Park, Parkway, and Recreational Area Study Act, a result of the lobbying efforts of men like Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. The Park Service had reached the conclusion that the Depression necessitated the urgent examination of the nation's recreational land base. The Act permitted the Park Service to make a comprehensive national survey of park and recreational programs. The survey was to be conducted in consultation with the National Resources Planning Board and individual state planning boards. What the Act did in retrospect was to codify in law the recreational penumbra and purpose of the National Park Service. The Park Service emerged from the 1930s as the preeminent federal recreation agency. [186] In theory, the Act boded well for Park Service desires to enlarge Rainbow Bridge NM and reserve a larger corridor through Glen Canyon. But neither the Park Service nor Ickes accurately predicted the vehement opposition of Western states, especially Utah, with respect to preserving rights of access and use on lands the Park Service desired to reserve. In the West, the Park, Parkway, and Recreational Area Study Act ran headlong into the Taylor Grazing Act which had passed a little over a year prior.

In 1935 Secretary Ickes, in anticipation of the Park, Parkway, and Recreational Area Study Act's passage, began exploring numerous proposals for new or expanded national monuments in the Southwest. One area, labeled in a memo as the "Colorado River Exclusion," encompassed most of lower Glen Canyon. In its initial inception the area did not include Rainbow Bridge. The ostensible reason for excluding Rainbow Bridge was to avoid conflict with the Navajo Tribe. The boundaries of the proposed new monument, eventually referred to as Escalante National Monument, stopped along the northwestern border of the Navajo reservation. Ickes and the Park Service were aware of the existing political climate. The Paiute Strip had only been back under Navajo control for two years. The probability was low that the Navajo Nation would relinquish control of the Strip to help expand Park Service holdings in the region. Acting Director A.E. Demaray notified various levels of Park Service personnel in the Southwest region about the intention of Secretary Ickes to secure an Escalante National Monument. This memo represented definite indication that the Park Service had decided to pursue protection of the Glen Canyon/Rainbow Bridge region on a greatly expanded scale. [187]

By September 1935, Superintendent Toll was openly lobbying the Director for a new national park or monument on the lower Colorado River at Glen Canyon. Toll suggested the new area be named Escalante National Monument. [188] At the same time the Rainbow Bridge Monument Valley Expedition had blossomed into a full-fledged organization, with a fourteen-member advisory staff and a three-member executive committee. The advisory staff included men such as John Collier, Horace M. Albright, and geologist Herbert E. Gregory. Ansel Hall remained as the expedition's general director. The Park Service also moved into a position of official sanctioner of the expedition, in terms of both permits and funds. Numerous direct expenses, including equipment and transportation costs, were approved to be paid by the Park Service for the 1935 expedition.

The Park Service knew that it would obtain invaluable information that would help bolster its lobbying position in support of a national park in lower Glen Canyon. [189] The Park Service also recognized the power of reclamation forces during this period. The Upper Basin states were busy planning their development of the Colorado River. In June 1935, Superintendent Toll wrote to the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation requesting a "brief statement of the probable future use of the Colorado River." [190] Toll knew that the Colorado would be dammed at various points and wanted to be able to integrate Park Service proposals for monuments and parks into the larger matrix of water reclamation. For unknown reasons Commissioner Mead responded with the vague statement that Reclamation had no definite plans for development of the Colorado River or the Glen Canyon region. He referred Toll to various articles on existing projects such as Boulder Dam but refused to commit the Bureau to any development schemes on the upper Colorado. This kind of information vacuum was something Park Service officials would deal with for years to come, especially in relation to the Colorado River Storage Project (see chapter 6).

The Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley expeditions continued into the summer of 1936. The data collected over four years of expeditions was enormous. Based on the level of current and reliable data secured by Hall's teams, the Park Service seriously considered national monument or national park status for a large portion of the Paiute Strip. When Charles Bernheimer inquired after the status of his own national park proposal from 1933, Director Cammerer replied that the Park Service was in fact preparing to lobby for a large monument that might eventually capture Rainbow Bridge and most of the Strip. [191] However, in its official form, the proposal for a new Escalante National Monument stopped at the San Juan River as it southern boundary. The 1936 expedition, which had grown in size to 73 men, made national headlines. Even Ford Motor Company, which provided many of the expedition vehicles, featured the expedition and its key personnel in an article for Ford News. The article extolled the virtues of science and, of course, Ford vehicles. [192] More important was the fact that the expedition as well as the environs of Rainbow Bridge received national press.

Aside from considering the creation of a new Escalante National Monument, Director Cammerer solicited the opinion of Frank Pinkley, Southwestern Monuments Superintendent, regarding the possibility of simply expanding the existing boundaries of Rainbow Bridge NM. Pinkley indicated to numerous personnel that the lack of reliable maps necessitated obtaining original Fairchild aerial maps and then verifying the contents of those photos through ground reconnaissance. By December 1937, Pinkley was able to make definite recommendations for expansion of Rainbow Bridge's boundaries. The proposed expansion included Rainbow Lodge, the trail from the lodge to the bridge, and much of the area southwest of Navajo Mountain and west to the Colorado River, then north to the San Juan River. All of the new territory lay within the Navajo reservation. On paper it was an impressive set of boundaries. But the practical pursuit of the plan invited many of the problems that the Park Service knew would accompany the removal of land from Navajo control. [193]

Unfortunately, numerous forces combined to derail both the Escalante National Monument proposal and the expansion of Rainbow Bridge's perimeter. The original Escalante proposal, which totaled some 6,900 square miles, looked more like the present Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It would have established a new preserve that straddled 280 miles of the canyons of the Colorado River, 150 miles of the Green River, and 70 miles of the San Juan River. [194] The area originally proposed totaled over 4,000,000 acres. But the Taylor Grazing Act had only been law for one year prior to the inception of the Escalante proposal. The Taylor Act made long-standing traditions of open-range grazing a matter of law. [195] Utah residents were less than cordial to any Park Service proposals that tampered with their newly legalized rights. Their concerns were well founded. Despite protestations to the contrary, the Park Service intended to progressively phase out grazing in the proposed Escalante monument. In February 1936, Roger W. Toll and J. Lee Brown, representing the Park Service, conferred with Utah Congressman Abe Murdock over the details of the new Escalante National Monument. Murdock indicated that he favored continuation of grazing but "might agree to [Park Service proposals] limiting permits to present users and eventually eliminate grazing by not transferring permits or issuing new ones." [196]

Because of concerns from Utah residents and legislators over the viability of maintaining grazing and mineral rights in the new monument, the Escalante proposal was scaled back to 2,450 square miles that straddled a short section of the Colorado River as it passed through Glen Canyon. Even this modification met with disdain from Utah representatives. By 1940, Secretary Ickes was fighting numerous administrative battles in Congress, including attempts to reorganize various administrative departments under Interior control. According to historian Ronald A. Foresta, the rivalry between the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture reached new heights under Ickes. Agriculture wanted to control western grazing lands that were then administered by Interior. At the same time, Ickes maneuvered to bring the Forest Service under Interior control so he could create a new Department of Conservation. Making the Forest Service and the National Park Service part of the same department would have given Secretary Ickes unprecedented levels of planning and control capability. The merger never took place, in large part because of President Roosevelt's ability to manage federal agencies. It is likely that the Western states would have lobbied fiercely to prevent the merger if Roosevelt had failed to step in. [197] These battles diminished Utah's opinion of any greater federal presence in the state. State leaders in the West represented a long tradition of trying to limit federal land control to those areas that generated revenue for the states. Reclamation was a favorite tool for Western legislators to meet that end. To complicate the situation a little more, the debate was heating up over preliminary plans for dams near Echo Park Canyon, which lay inside Dinosaur National Monument (see chapter 6). Utah representatives were concerned that Interior plans at the Park Service end would conflict with Reclamation plans for development of the Colorado River, leaving Utah in a bureaucratic stranglehold and unable to develop any resources.

In late 1939, the Park Service's support for legislation amending the 1906 Antiquities Act confirmed Utah's fears. The amendment would have empowered the President to authorize "national recreation areas" under the same criteria of the original Act. [198] Utah legislators thought this was tantamount to empire building on the part of Ickes and Interior. Had the legislation passed, Ickes may well have persuaded President Roosevelt to bypass Utah's objections and declare the proposed Escalante National Monument as a national recreation area. But Utah's Congressional leaders were able to block the Park Service's amendment and delay Presidential action long enough for the demands of World War II to supercede extended development of national monuments and national parks. [199]

World War II temporarily curtailed the Park Service's ability to expand the national park system. With America's entry into the war, the Park Service's operating budget was reduced by half and the Civilian Conservation Corps was eliminated. Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Park Service employed approximately 5,900 full-time employees. Yearly reductions in staff and field personnel left only 1,500 Park Service employees by June 1944. In 1940, Newton P. Drury became NPS Director. For the first five years of his eleven year term the Park Service focused almost exclusively on protection and maintenance goals. On more controversial issues, Drury remained true to the Park Service's mission. Secretary Ickes opened numerous national park units to war effort-related mining and logging. Drury opposed nearly every one of these measures. He never felt the complete favor of Secretary Ickes and was in a poor political bargaining position when the controversy erupted over Echo Park Canyon and the Colorado River Storage. [200]

Pinkley's proposed expansion of Rainbow Bridge's boundaries suffered the same fate as the Escalante National Monument proposal. Because of the controversy that escalated between Ickes and Utah leaders, Pinkley and Cammerer were unable to modify the Escalante National Monument proposal to include a southerly deviation that captured Rainbow Bridge. In addition, as World War II escalated and priorities shifted away from expanding monuments like Rainbow Bridge, maintaining the monument in its existing form was all the Park Service could accomplish. Ultimately, plans to expand Rainbow Bridge were hobbled by a series of events that really had little to do with the merit of Pinkley's proposal; in fact, the merits of expanding the monument were never debated or discussed beyond a small handful of key Park Service employees. Proposals to expand Rainbow Bridge NM did not surface again for another decade and then only as part of the larger debate concerning the Colorado River Storage Project.

While World War II and federal/state conflict were definite impediments to expanding Rainbow Bridge NM, it was the shift to water reclamation policies that most affected the long term desires of the Park Service to modify the monument's borders. The Upper Basin states pursued plans to develop the upper Colorado River during the entire course of the war. When World War II ended, President Harry S Truman began promoting his Fair Deal efforts to employ millions of former military personnel. The Upper Basin states knew that they had the necessary combination of presidential support, available manpower, and legal right to pursue development of Colorado River reclamation. It was in this climate that the Colorado River Storage Project really took off. NPS and the Bureau of Reclamation both knew that trying to meld recreational preservation with hydroelectric development would be difficult. At the time, the only national recreation area was Lake Mead, created in 1936 after the construction of Boulder Dam. But the precedent for Park Service involvement in the recreational use of Reclamation projects was set at Lake Mead. During the Park, Parkway, and Recreational Area Study, Lake Mead was determined to hold enormous recreational potential. Managing this potential was definitely outside the purview of the Bureau of Reclamation in 1936; therefore, in October 1936 the Park Service signed an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to manage public recreational use on and around Lake Mead National Recreation Area. [201] This new category of Park Service underpinned the transition to Glen Canyon NRA in the 1960s. It also made Reclamation projects in Glen Canyon more plausible.

The administrative difficulties of managing Rainbow Bridge NM between 1950 and 1955 centered around the Colorado River Storage Project (see chapter 6). In the early years of the proposal, consideration was given to the possible effects of impounded waters on Rainbow Bridge. The Park Service knew that a massive dam in Glen Canyon would eventually impound enough water to reach up the Colorado River and possibly invade the monument's boundaries. There was even early discussion between Park Service officials and the Bureau of Reclamation over developing protective structures that could prevent any adverse contact between the bridge and the waters of Lake Powell. But the Park Service maintained that until the dam was built and water was impounded, the possibility of any negative consequences to the bridge was merely speculation.

Based on the available data regarding Glen Canyon Dam, the Sierra Club organized a National Committee for a Glen Canyon National Park. It also organized a Utah committee dedicated to the same goal. In August 1954, the Utah committee's spearhead, Dr. William R. Halliday, wrote to numerous club members regarding plans for the proposed park. The Utah Committee prepared a detailed statement in favor of a new national park that would straddle the Colorado River from Hite to Lee's Ferry and the San Juan River from Mexican Hat to the confluence with the Colorado. Naturally the proposal called for extended corridors around Rainbow Bridge. [202] The boundaries were strikingly similar to Secretary Ickes' Escalate National Monument proposal from the 1930s. Like most Sierra Club documents regarding Glen Canyon, the national park proposal was based on the Sierra Club's belief that the fiscal propriety of the dam was tenuous and the legal imperative regarding the protection of national parks and monuments was paramount. But the political reality of the mid-1950s was not favorable to the idea of protecting Glen Canyon. NPS Director Newton P. Drury had already resigned under the duress of trying to prevent dams in Echo Canyon and elsewhere. Douglas McKay occupied the office of Secretary of the Interior and was known to be in complete support of dams on the Colorado River. In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation enjoyed the favor of most of the Western states because their plans for the Colorado River ensured that the Upper Basin would receive its rightful share of water in the face of California's voracious and growing need. The Sierra Club proposal never made it beyond its own committee. Congress approved the Colorado River Storage Project a year and a half later.

The first forty-five years of Rainbow Bridge NM were filled with activity. The Park Service during this period was dominated by people committed to the idea that Rainbow Bridge represented a stunning piece of natural architecture that should be preserved and protected. During the early life of the monument, the forces of reclamation and development were in a nascent phase and did not represent a serious challenge to the Park Service's mission at Rainbow Bridge. Between 1933 and 1955, regional demands for water and the growing political clout of the Bureau of Reclamation compelled the Park Service to reevaluate its goals at Rainbow Bridge. The Park Service was forced to consider management scenarios that included water from Lake Powell inside the boundaries of Rainbow Bridge NM. As will be seen in chapter 6, external forces put the Park Service and its leadership in an awkward position in their attempts to preserve the monument in its relatively unfettered state. The remote and "undiscovered" nature of Rainbow Bridge and Glen Canyon was, in the end, the greatest handicap the monument faced. The post-World War II fervor to reclaim the waters of the West was more than any federal agency, including the National Park Service, could compete against.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 07-Feb-2003