All My Rivers Are Gone
Reviewed by Steve Mann


By: Katie Lee
Published by: Johnson Books
Paperback, 240 pages

Buy it.

Publication date: October 1998
Price: $14.40
ISBN: 1555662293
Category: Glen Canyon


Katie Lee is much like the river she loves—at times raucous, uncompromising, stubborn. But underneath the tough exterior emerges the essence of the Colorado—the Land No One Knew, Glen Canyon. Katie somehow paints a picture of the indepictable, giving the uninitiated a glimpse of the Glen Canyonís siren call. She exposes how it seeped into her very pores, giving root to delicate maidenhair ferns in the rocky crevasses of her soul. The river impregnated her mind with thoughtóseeds of thought which sprouted months, even years, later with such vividness that entire experiences were duplicated in every detail, from sights, to smells, to feelings. Such is the riverís power, a power that awaits its opportunity to seep into your soul too. Yes, the Coloradoís canyons produce a spiritual experience even for the atheist.

To read All My Rivers Are Gone is to glimpse two driving forces behind Katieís hatred of Lake Powell and its cause, the Glen Canyon Dam, and to sense her love lost for the Colorado Riveróor at least the parts that are river no more.

First, you come to understand the Coloradoís addicting nature, its allure, itsí haunting power. Katie Lee exposes how the river engulfed her, and prepares you to experience itófor experience it you must if you are ever to truly understand.

The second understanding is to recognize that mystical places, like Glen Canyon, are vanishing quickly. When Katie Lee took her first trip down Glen Canyon in 1954, Jim Biggs estimated she was the 175th person in recorded history to run it. Just 175 people in 200 years. Today in rafting season, more than 175 people run the remaining sections of the river every day. In her day, Katie notes, "There were hundreds of untouched potholes, pools, and sluices in the sandstone bottoms, on the cap, in crevasses, everywhereóand many untouchable ones out of reach, glistening deep and inviting. As for the river, . . . we sank our garbage out in the middle. It acted as a disposal, ground everything to bits in the space of a few silty miles . . My present day camper friends tend to choke on that logic, but try to visualize how few of us there were in this true wilderness, compared to the masses hardly able to find a place even half as pristine now."

Therein lies the fount of wilderness preservation, trying to preserve what little is left before it is overrun and lost, drowned in a sea of visitation, suffocated by those who want to inhale the breath of life it so willingly shares with them.

Aside from Katie's relationship with Glen Canyon and the cause of its restoration, Katie's writings will also interest the historian. It's amazing to realize that in the late 1950's and early 60's many of the side canyons were still unnamed. Katie and her "party of three" companions, Tad Nichols and Frank Wright, named several of these canyons, names which the canyons bear to this day. The derivations of the names reflect experiences on their journeys, and will pop into your memory as you travel the lake or its' canyons.

Katie mingles after-the-fact descriptions of her frequent trips down the Colorado in the pre-lake years with journal descriptions from the trips. Her descriptions are vivid, the narrative interesting. It helps if you are interested in the Colorado River and its canyon, but just about anyoneóexcept those who love the lake more than its canyon ancestryówill enjoy All My Rivers Are Gone.

But I believe Katie Lee aspires for more than an enjoyable read. She wrote for a catharsis. And she wrote to persuade her readers that restoration of Glen Canyon to its pre-damned (pun intended) state is desirable. Necessary. Possible. Perhaps, after reading All My Rivers Are Gone, the ghost of Glen Canyon will haunt you as it does Katie Lee. Perhaps that ghost will spur you to action in restoring the Glen. Or perhaps to the goal of protecting the soul of remaining wilderness, before its ghosts are released to haunt us all with reminders of what was, and what could still be, as the ghost of Glen Canyon haunts Katie Lee.

As for Glen Canyon itself, even wilderness lovers disagree on its restoration. Many who are willing to consider it, doubt itsí necessity or practicality. " There are other places like those under the lake, why not just go to those," they ask. "Besides," they opine, "the mess left behind after draining the lake would be immense--it would never get cleaned up or be restored to its natural beauty."

As a statistician once told me about another matter, "That's an empirical question,"meaning the only way to know for sure is to drain the lake and see what happens. Does the physician withhold medical treatment because the patient is likely to die? I believe that places like Glen Canyon are too few for too many. Its time to bring them back from the dead. Let the river breathe its life back into Glen Canyon and in the process make a few more enchanting grottos available for us, or at least for our children.

If nothing else, All My Rivers Are Gone will remind you of the intricate, inexplicable, reverential, sacred, and emotional bond that develops between human and the remote, the wild, the solitary, the rock, and the sand. Read All My Rivers Are Gone, then remember the bond you have with places like Glen Canyon. Or better yet, go form new bonds with places yet unexplored before they are gone too.

Steve Mann is a contributing editor at GearReview.com

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