Transcript for Challenge at Glen Canyon, segment 02 of 11


Flowing from the summit lands of the Rockies, the Colorado River responds to annual snowfalls with erratic flows. During the snowmelt period of April through July, it can roar through the canyons in a gigantic flood or it can flow quietly and quickly fall back after the snow is gone. During each of the past eighty years or so, the Colorado has been measured and averages have been obtained. But the river cares not for averages and seems rather to follow its own mysterious destiny.

In the fall of nineteen eighty-two and the early spring of nineteen eighty-three, snow depths in the high mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah were only a little above average. In May, however, heavy snowstorms hit the high country. It was cold then, but the heat of summer cut like a hot knife and the heavy snowmelt was on.

First indication of flooding occurred just west of the Colorado River Basin, along Utah's Wasatch Mountains. Here the streams peaked quickly and filled Utah Lake to overflowing. The runoff cut through the city streets of Bountiful and Farmington, Utah, while in Salt Lake City, the water was channeled out onto some of the principal streets to form manmade rivers, a fascinating diversion for office workers and tourists.

{{{Background noise of water}}}

In the Colorado River Basin itself, heavy flows came from mountains in five states. From Wyoming's lofty Wind River Mountains, the runoff rushed through Fontenelle Dam and onto Flaming Gorge Dam where it overflowed the lake and plunged into the spillway and bypass tubes.

In western Colorado, heavy releases from Blue Mesa Dam flowed into Morrow Point Lake, which then spilled in a dramatic three hundred fifty foot drop. Crystal Reservoir also poured over its spillway in another dramatic free fall. And from the Uinta Mountains of Utah flowed several streams of rivers. And all of these tributaries combined from the Strawberry and the Duchesne, from the Green and the Big Sandy, from the Yampa, the White, and the Eagle, from the Tomichi and the Gunnison, from the Dolores and the San Juan, from the Colorado. Every stream and every river poured into Lake Powell where the combined waters rose rapidly toward the spillways at Glen Canyon Dam.