All My Rivers Are Gone
Reviewed by Steve Mann
By: Katie Lee
Published by: Johnson Books
Paperback, 240 pages
Publication date: October 1998
Category: Glen Canyon
Katie Lee is much like the river she lovesat times raucous, uncompromising, stubborn. But underneath
the tough exterior emerges the essence of the Coloradothe 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