double clickMarble Canyon Dam Site - A Proposed Dam Site
Grand Canyon
6 or 7 Day Rafting Vacation
Marble Canyon Dam Site

Mile 40 - Marble Canyon Dam Site

Beginning in the 1950s, several dams on the Colorado system were proposed, including one slated for construction by the Bureau of Reclamation in Marble Canyon. Luckily, fierce opposition from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, as well as from concerned citizens; halted dam construction at the site and others like it within the canyon. Had a dam been built there, an artificial lake would have backed-up water all the way to Lee’s Ferry. Initially, the Sierra Club was not opposed to the dam. Most fortunately though, an individual named Martin Litton; boldly and unyieldingly voiced his disapproval of the Club’s stance and inaction on the issue during a board meeting in May of 1963. Litton’s speech during the meeting persuaded the majority of the board to change their stance on the issue entirely; the Club would now oppose any dams within Grand Canyon. Litton’s zeal also empowered the Club’s Executive Director, David Brower, who was aligned with Litton’s view all along. Moving forward, the duo of Litton and Brower with their recently gained support from the Club; sparked the attention of thousands of American citizens, many of whom sent letters to congress in unprecedented numbers expressing specific disapproval for the Marble Canyon Dam. In 1968, after immense pressured to act, congress passed a law prohibiting the study or construction of hydroelectric dams within Grand Canyon. In 1975, the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act was passed, which substantially grew the park as a whole, and gave the river system within Marble Canyon a layer of federal protection it had not enjoyed ever before.

Stewart Udall »

A key political figure during this time was Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. Udall was born and raised in the state of Arizona, he represented Arizona in federal politics before his appointment as secretary, and at first was fully supportive of dam building in Grand Canyon. However, after participating in a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, which undoubtedly helped him gain a better understanding of the ramifications at hand; Udall changed his position 180 degrees. Without the Secretary’s renewed efforts to stop dam building in the canyon and his support for greater overall protection for the park; a different result would have unfolded at Mile 40.

Test Holes

Test Holes »

Test holes in the limestone walls, with piles of debris below the holes are visible at the damsite on either side of the river.These holes, drilled to test the integrity of the rock; mark the upstream, center, and downstream end of the proposed dam. The holes travel back into the canyon walls for hundreds of feet.

Lower Gorge Grand Canyon

Lower Grand Canyon Mile by Mile »

The lower Grand Canyon, as traveled by Western's 3 or 4 day expedition begins at Whitmore Wash (mile 188) and finishes at Lake Mead (mile 277).

See Lower Grand Canyon