Anyone peering over the edge of the Canyon these days is likely to spy a very muddy river oozing along the floor of the chasm. With the heavy precipitation we’ve enjoyed this winter, and the spring thaw of the high country beginning in earnest, the sediment load on the river is extremely high. For non-river folk that means dirt, sand, gravel and whatnot being washed into the Canyon from side streams and carried throughout on the conveyor belt known as the Colorado River.
Before the Glen Canyon Dam came on line in the 60s, this was a year round occurrence. Now, most of the upstream sediment settles at the bottom of Lake Powell behind the dam. Today, it takes the flooding of non-dammed, high-volume tributaries like the Paria and Little Colorado Rivers to deliver the load. For most of the year, the “deposit” is not enough to alter the river from its emerald green hue. But these days, as the pioneers once bemoaned, the flow is “too thick to drink, too thin to plow.”