Rainbow Bridge
Administrative History
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The Modern Monument: Managing Rainbow Bridge, 1955-1993 (continued)

The major issue by 1966 concerned shoreline development and facilities on Aztec Creek, located one mile downstream from Rainbow Bridge. The Park Service and the Nation were trying to negotiate a land swap that granted the Park Service access to the shore along Aztec Creek in exchange for Tribal rights at Echo Camp, located just south of the Bridge. The basis for Tribal approval of facilities at Aztec Creek was in the elevation language of Public Law 85-868, as mentioned previously. Based on this law, all lands above 3,720 feet could only be developed by the Park Service with the Nation's approval. But the Park Service determined that the water level at the mouth of Aztec Creek lay below the stipulated elevation requirements. Also, the Park Service did not intend for the floating facilities to be available for use by the general public. Based on this assessment, the Park Service had installed a small floating dock facility in August of 1965. This fact did not meet with the Nation's approval. To let the Park Service know it was serious about reserving access, the Navajo Nation issued a business permit to Harold Drake that allowed Drake to develop concessions at Echo Camp. The permit was issued before any MOA was completed. In addition, the Nation solicited development support from Standard Oil Company to help develop concessions facilities at Padre Point. The latter event involved lands that were below the 3,720 foot level reserved to Park Service control in Public Law 85-868. Given Standard Oil's interest in Tribal concessions, the Nation was anxious to complete a MOA. As a result of these events, a large scale meeting was scheduled between the Park Service and the Nation to work out as many details as possible toward competing an MOA. [322]

Rainbow Bridge marina
Figure 33 Rainbow Bridge marina, 1965 (Woodrow Reiff Collection, NAU.PH.99.5.177, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University)

The conference was held at the Tribal headquarters at Window Rock, Arizona on January 26, 1966. Tribal representatives included Frank Carson, director of the Nation's Parks, Tourism, and Recreation Development council; Bill Lovell, Navajo Tribal attorney; and, Edward Plumber, Sam Day III, and Roger David, members of the Navajo Tribal Council. The Bureau of Indian Affairs sent seven regional representatives. The Park Service was also represented in force: Norman Herkenham and Joe Carithers from the Santa Fe Regional Headquarters; Superintendent Gustav W. Muehlenhaupt and Lyle Jamison from Glen Canyon NRA; Superintendent Meredith Guillet from Canyon de Chelly; and Superintendent Jack Williams from Navajo NM. The conference had an extensive agenda, but the majority of the issues revolved around Park Service plans to develop facilities near Rainbow Bridge and Tribal demands on access to Lake Powell's south shore. In addition to land issues at Rainbow Bridge, the Park Service and the Nation tried to work out details concerning a proposed land expansion at Navajo NM.

The conference did not go as the Park Service anticipated. Based on the stipulations of the 1958 Act, the Nation felt that the Park Service was trespassing on Tribal lands at Aztec Creek, given that the Park Service did not solicit Tribal approval to construct floating docks. The Park Service responded that this was the purpose of completing a Memorandum of Agreement—to retroactively obtain Tribal approval for necessary facilities. The Nation was willing to grant such approval but only if the Park Service agreed to grant exclusive concessions rights to the Nation at those facilities. Regarding the land exchange for Navajo NM, the Nation felt betrayed when it was informed that they would have to pay rent to operate a Navajo crafts concession at the new Betat' akin visitor's center. Tribal representatives said they had been assured that no such rent would be required. The Park Service maintained that this was always couched in terms of the Nation granting approval of the desired land expansion at Navajo NM. Tribal attorney Bill Lovell maintained an extremely diplomatic tone during the course of the heated negotiations, according to Park Service reports. Norman Herkenham said that it was Lovell's commitment to productive negotiations that prevented the conference from breaking down completely. The conference ended with both the Park Service and the Nation committed to finding mutually acceptable solutions to the issues that concerned Rainbow Bridge. During the conference, Frank Carson solicited Park Service assistance with developing his Parks and Tourism department, asking for information on Park Service boating regulations, concessioner rate schedules, and examples of concessions prospectus. Carson felt that, overall, the Nation still possessed an enormous commercial opportunity at Lake Powell and Rainbow Bridge even in the penumbra of Park Service regulations. [323]

Based on the reasonable progress made at the January conference, the Nation scheduled another meeting for March of 1966. The Park Service knew that the issue of "trespass" at Aztec Creek would figure heavily in the March meeting. Prior to the meeting, Norman Herkenham obtained the opinion of Park Service Field Solicitor Gayle Manges regarding the Park Service's interpretation of the 1958 Act. The issue was more complicated than anyone anticipated. Manges argued that based on court precedents, the waters of Lake Powell and the Colorado River were "navigable [waters] in fact" which made them "navigable in law." [324] Because the floating facilities at Aztec Creek were not permanently moored to the shore or the land below the water, those facilities were subject to the laws governing navigable waters of the United States and therefore exempt from any Tribal jurisdiction. Manges wrote:

As the Tribe is vested with only a right to approve recreation facilities built on the surface estate, either upland or lake-bed, it has no possession or title to support an action for trespass for use by the public of navigable waters over Parcel "B". It is my opinion that the United States need not obtain the permission of the Tribe in order to either locate a free-floating dock or other vessel on the navigable waters above Parcel "B" on lands in Lake Powell. [325]

The March conference produced another draft of the MOA, with most of the Nation's previous concerns over Aztec Creek still extant and unaddressed. Between 1966 and 1967, Park Service relations with the Navajo Nation deteriorated to an all time low. A series of Tribal elections in 1966 did not help matters, as the Park Service observed that the emerging Tribal Council was extremely factionalized. Most of the newer council members were very much in favor of maintaining the Nation's positions concerning concessions at Lake Powell. The Nation was distressed over the Park Service's apparent uncompromising attitude concerning Aztec Creek and Navajo NM. The Park Service was aware of the poor state of affairs and in response, assigned Superintendent John Cook at Canyon de Chelly the duties of Navajo Affairs Coordinator. The Coordinator's goal was to improve relations with the Nation and help solve the problems that plagued the MOA. [326]

By March of 1967 the Park Service was negotiating from a poor position. Various attempts to solidify an MOA were met with Tribal charges of deception and fraud. The Park Service started to reconsider its need for adding any land to Rainbow Bridge NM, maintaining the simple desire for Tribal approval of public access via Aztec Creek's floating facilities. Cook, also appointed as the Navajo Affairs Coordinator, advocated a non-aggressive posture toward the Navajo Nation. Writing to the Director, Cook said "we are going to clean our own house, stick to our word and proceed in a more professional manner utilizing our knowledge of Navajo thinking." [327] This perspective represented a genuine effort by the Park Service to negotiate with the Nation on a more qualitatively equal plane.

In this new spirit, another meeting took place between legal representatives of the Nation and Park Service Regional Director Daniel Beard. After the meeting, during which another draft of the MOA was presented and discussed, Tribal Council Chairman Raymond Nakai wrote to Beard requesting Park Service assistance in helping the Nation generate a total development plan for the Nation's shoreline interests at Lake Powell. Beard responded enthusiastically, pledging the complete support of the Park Service and its resources. [328] This spirit of cooperation continued throughout 1967. The Nation focused on two issues of concern in the next draft of the MOA. In that May 1967 draft, the Nation eliminated the Park Service's requirement that any Tribal road or facility construction be pre-approved by the Park Service. The Nation also granted itself easements that would allow Navajo-controlled floating structures along the south shore of Lake Powell. In addition, the Tribal draft proposed exclusive concessions rights along all shoreline that abutted the Navajo reservation. As a conciliatory gesture, the draft contained language that granted approval to floating facilities at Aztec Creek. The Nation only required that the Park Service give due consideration to a proposal that the Nation operate the facility on a permanent basis at some point in the future. [329]

The Park Service responded that it could not guarantee approval of a plan to transfer control to the Nation, especially if such pre-approval was a prerequisite for completing the MOA. Director George B. Hartzog offered to remove the floating facility from Aztec Creek if the Nation preferred. In a letter to Nakai, Hartzog reminded the Nation that the Park Service was in the process of generating a massive development plan for the Nation that included plans for Tribal floating facilities at Padre Point. At the same time that the Director was buffering the Park Service's position, Don Clark replaced Frank Carson as head of the Nation's Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Development Department. This was good news to the Park Service as Clark favored improved relations between the Park Service and the Navajo Nation. [330]

Under Clark's guidance, the Nation negotiated through 1968 from a different perspective, narrowing its demands at Aztec Creek and along the south shore. Late in 1968 Sam Day III replaced Clark. Day was even more commercially oriented than Clark. Under his guidance, the Tribal Council met in October 1968 at Window Rock with representatives of the Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The Window Rock conference produced a complete and mutually agreeable draft of the MOA. It was sent immediately to the Navajo Tribal Council for consideration. Unfortunately, Council Chairman Nakai rejected the draft out of hand and the council never got the chance to see it. Nakai contended that the agreement was not sufficiently favorable to the Nation and as such did not merit consideration. [331]

At another meeting in April of 1969 in the office of Regional Director Frank Kowski, Chairman Nakai and Tribal attorney William McPherson argued that the Nation should be guaranteed in the MOA the prospect of assuming control of all operations at the Aztec Creek floating facilities. Nakai also insisted that the Park Service guarantee south shore development funds for the Nation equivalent to those funds the Park Service already guaranteed to north shore development. These were two points that threatened to derail the entire MOA process that had gone on for over six years. The Park Service reacted with a touch of frustration. Kowski informed Nakai and McPherson that Navajo control of the floating facilities at Aztec Creek was not an option and non-negotiable. Under guidance from Director Hartzog, Kowski said that if an MOA was not completed soon, the Park Service would move the floating facility to another location and thereby end negotiations for a Memorandum of Agreement. The Nation, in true diplomatic fashion, responded by saying that such a decision would be the Park Service's choice and not done at the request of the Navajo Nation. Representatives of the Nation and the Park Service met nearly every month throughout 1969 to clarify details of the MOA. The fact that the Nation was facing financial difficulties (Chairman Nakai told Kowski at a June meeting that the Nation could be "broke in six years") also heightened their commitment to the MOA and the tourism revenues it could ensure. [332]

The mood on both sides of the table softened during 1969. The Navajo Nation was more concerned with maintaining Park Service support of Navajo interests at Padre Point than Rainbow Bridge. The Nation also realized that it would benefit from Park Service development support and planning as public use at Lake Powell increased. Kowski spearheaded Park Service efforts to generate as much development funding as possible for the Navajo Nation, including grants for specific development at Padre Point. On December 2, 1969 the Navajo Tribal Council passed a resolution authorizing Chairman Nakai to negotiate and complete a Memorandum of Agreement regarding Glen Canyon NRA and contingent areas. The resolution invested unilateral authority in Nakai to complete and approve the MOA on behalf of the entire Navajo Nation. [333] The following year was dedicated to finalizing details of the agreement and assuring the Nation that the Park Service would support development plans along the south shore. In addition to developing an acceptable MOA the Park Service pursued cooperative training issues with the Nation in an attempt to train potential Navajo employees at Park Service facilities for employment at both Navajo and Park Service concessions. The good will that flowed between the Nation and the Park Service paid off when the Secretary of Interior signed a Memorandum of Agreement on September 11, 1970. The agreement was made none too soon as visitation reached 39,959 by the end of 1970. [334]

There were no surprises in the agreement. The Park Service agreed to help develop and manage any and all Navajo recreational facilities located at Lake Powell and on Navajo land. The agreement specifically excluded Rainbow Bridge and its floating facilities from Navajo control; however, the power of approval of any development plans for all other Parcel "B" lands above 3,720 feet remained with the Nation. All other Lake Powell development was subject to approval by the Park Service based on the overall development plan of Glen Canyon NRA. The same approval was required of any Navajo development plans for Parcel "B" lands below 3,720 feet. The Park Service also gave first-hire preference to Tribal members who applied for work at Glen Canyon NRA and offered to "encourage and assist members of the Tribe to qualify for positions" for which they may not have previously been qualified. This included specific training programs for positions in interpretation, conservation, fire protection, search and rescue, and historical programs, all designed to make Tribal applicants better candidates for federal employment. Pertaining to Rainbow Bridge, the Park Service agreed to pursue legislation that would transfer the annual concession franchise fee (normally paid to the Park Service) to the Nation in exchange for Tribal approval of existing floating facilities and the construction of any additional future facilities. [335]

The controversy of the 1970s was not limited to relations with the Navajo Nation. The 1970 Friends of the Earth lawsuit and the subsequent 1973 ruling in favor of the Park Service had real impacts on monument management. The Court's decision did not dispute the legal imperative to protect the bridge; rather, it confirmed the Secretary of the Interior's discretionary power to determine how that protection was executed. To help determine whether or not damage was being done to the bridge, the Tenth Circuit Court mandated that the Bureau of Reclamation monitor the effects of Lake Powell on the bridge for a period of ten years. The monitoring program commenced in 1974. The Bureau of Reclamation was extremely thorough in its program. Every aspect of the bridge's behavior was monitored and analyzed. The program included surveys, photography, and geologic methods of a non destructive nature. The geologic methods included Whittemore strain gauges on the bridge's legs, measurement of Bridge Canyon's width, seismic monitoring, and laser measurement of bridge movement. The Bureau reported its findings at regular intervals and made copies of those findings available to the Park Service.

The monitoring program yielded some interesting results in the ten years it operated. The most amazing realization was that the original 1909 measurements taken by William B. Douglass were incorrect. Douglass measured the bridge's height at 309 feet and the width of the span at 278 feet. These figures were the official measurements since 1910. But Reclamation measurements, using slightly more sophisticated instruments, found the height to be only 291 feet and the span 275 feet. That the original measurements were so far from accurate was a surprise to the Bureau and the Park Service. The other result of the monitoring program that amazed everyone was the degree of regular motion exhibited by the bridge. The laser measurements revealed that the bridge could rise or fall as much as 0.38 inches from winter to summer. The Whittemore Strain Gauge recorded the displacement or movement of selected cracks as those cracks responded to the environment and stress in which they existed. Results from the Whittemore gauges revealed the same type of cyclical expansion and contraction patterns. Daily temperature changes, weather conditions, and exposure time to the sun all affected the behavior of various cracks in the same way the volumetric size and height of the bridge was affected. [336]

Whether or not the presence of water beneath the bridge contributed to the extent of this volumetric and crack variation was not part of the survey's conclusion. Whether or not moisture absorption or dehydration affected the extant structural fissures in the bridge could not be determined. Rock samples taken over the course of the program did not reveal any abnormal hydrologic effects. Thus, in 1985, the Bureau announced that Lake Powell was not contributing to any structural impairment of the bridge. Admittedly, it would have come as a major surprise if the Bureau had concluded any other way. Given the extremely short term (in geologic time) nature of the monitoring program, the Bureau's assessment was a forgone conclusion. But their efforts complied with the Court's mandate, and the bridge was found to be structurally sound.

In addition to the legal imperatives associated with managing the monument, tourism via Lake Powell began in earnest in the mid-1970s. After moving north and developing Wahweap Marina, Art Greene's Canyon Tours began running all day trips to Rainbow Bridge in the late 1960s. Demand for water access to the bridge grew as steadily as the popularity of Lake Powell among water recreation enthusiasts. By early 1975, Green was conducting half-day tours to accommodate the growing visitor demand. At the time Greene was the only licensed, official tour operator on Lake Powell. But the Park Service and all those involved at Rainbow Bridge knew that water craft tourism had permanently replaced land travel to the bridge. The growing number of visitors dictated that the monument and its environs needed careful and attentive management. By 1976 visitation reached more than 65,000 people. [337]

With a Memorandum of Agreement completed, the Park Service and Navajo Nation set about identifying potential development locations on Lake Powell's south shore. But the issues related to access and use of Rainbow Bridge were far from resolved. During the 1970s the Park Service personnel at Rainbow Bridge and elsewhere were consumed by the legal battle that erupted over Navajo First Amendment claims regarding unfettered access to the bridge. The Memorandum of Agreement had only been in effect for three years when Lamar Badoni filed suit against the Park Service and the Department of Interior over the effects of Lake Powell on Navajo religious practices (see Chapter 4). The Park Service response, once the legal conflict subsided, was to generate the Native American Relationships Policy (NARP). The NARP was precipitated by passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-341). The policy's intent was to make the Park Service more sensitive and responsive to the cross-cultural makeup of the region surrounding Rainbow Bridge. Managing the monument in terms of cultural diversity, as well as increasing visitation, was the tenor of Park Service administration in the 1980s. Working from the existing management guidelines, the Park Service modified the Statement For Management for Rainbow Bridge NM several times during the 1980s. Eventually the Park Service personnel at Glen Canyon and Rainbow Bridge under Superintendent John Lancaster realized that a new plan had to be drafted. Continual modification of existing guidelines was simply not keeping pace with the management demands at the bridge.

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Last Updated: 07-Feb-2003