Lake Powell and the Hanging Gardens


_dsc4912After having driven hundreds of kilometers along the unforgiving desert, we took the last hill. In front of us , Lake Powell a vast artificial lake. Blue as the sky. A lake in the middle of the desert dug in a sea of red rock. It’s Breathtaking, beautiful and mystic.

Lake Powell was built to store water from the Colorado River and is one of the top tourist destinations in the Southwest. With approximately 3200Km coastline and a vast choice of water sports.

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Carl Hayden Dam

A visit to the Carl Hayden Dam is worth the time, with the visitor center right next to the giant Dam. The Dam blocks the water from Lake Powell  from entering the Grand Canyon.

The Carl Hayden Visitor Center is located on the west end of the dam, approximately 110 feet above its crest.

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This beautiful, modernistic building whose circular, glass-enclosed east end juts out over the dam, provides a sweeping panoramic view of the dam and Lake Powell behind it.

And, in this day and age of high energy costs and government waste, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center is actually a great example of energy efficiency as a result of retrofits made in 1994 and 1995. There are wonderful exhibits, photographs, dioramas and a beautiful relief map of the dam, Lake Powell and the surrounding area.

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The initial blast took place on October 15, 1956 to the last bucket of cement poured in 1963.

Descending 110 feet takes you to the crest of the dam , a magnificent view over the Colorado River 500 feet below.  Descending another 528 feet takes you to an unusual sight: 86,000 square feet of grass that lies between the dam and the power plant. The grass provides a cooling effect, much the same as an evaporative cooler, which aids in reducing temperatures inside the powerhouse.

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And, for the piece de resistance, you will have a spectacular close up of the eight hydroelectric generators, which generate an average of 451 megawatts of electricity and have a maximum capacity of 1320 megawatts. By the way those are build in our country (Belgium).

_dsc4900Personally, we enjoy more nature. Next to the Dam there is the trail of the hanging gardens. One you should not miss, and if possible attend a guided tour provided (free) by the Park Rangers at sunset.

Glen Canyon

The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area preserves and protects 1.2 million acres of the Colorado Plateau, a vast landscape of colorful buttes, mesas, canyons, and cliffs. Arid to semi-arid, the region supports a complex and often fragile ecosystem. Plants and wildlife have developed unique adaptations to the hot, arid conditions of their environment and contribute to the rich diversity of life in the area.

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The wildlife of the Colorado Plateau desert have developed unique adaptations to the arid conditions of their environment and are a part of the rich diversity of life in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area . Wildlife in Glen Canyon is a reflection of the Colorado Plateau, changes in land use, and changes in the environment caused by the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963 and subsequent filling of Lake Powell. In addition to playing vital roles in the desert ecosystem and animal communities, wildlife also provides recreational opportunities such as bird watching and fishing.

The Hanging Garden in Ribbon Canyon

A magnificent 8 miles walk takes you through the red rocks and a bit of climbing to the Hanging Garden of the Ribbon Canyon. We took the hike at sunset, guided by a Park Ranger. The golden sunlight on the red rocks creates a feeling of tranquility and peace, as we have never seen before.

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Water sources in the desert are rare. When present, it hosts lush and green vegetation, creating a stark contrast to the dry surrounding desert landscape. Perhaps the most unusual form of spring-supported plant community on the Colorado Plateau is the hanging garden.

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Hanging gardens are spring-fed colonies of plants clinging to the vertical wall of a cliff. They often form in alcoves or “glens” where conditions are cooler and moister than in the surrounding desert.

The water is derived from winter precipitation. This water supply moves downward through the porous stone and cracks. When the water reaches a less permeable layer of rock, it cannot move downward any longer and begins to flow sideways. If this lateral movement continues to the wall of a canyon, it begins to seep out of the stone and flow down the sides of the cliff. This water source allows a rich array of plants to grow directly on the cliff face and on the ground below the seep.

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The name “hanging gardens” is refers to the famous hanging gardens of Babylon, where artificial gardens were built high up on walls and roof tops. Hanging gardens support an amazing diversity of water loving plant species, such as ferns, lilies, sedges, and orchids.

Hanging gardens are very fragile and must be enjoyed with care. Foot traffic from humans and livestock will erode the soil and trample the delicate vegetation in these distinctive oases of the desert, causing erosion, and increasing risk of introduction of exotic plant species.

The landscape

Environmental processes such as climate change, fire regime, weather, and geological processes that shaped the Colorado Plateau are recorded in rock formations. Which are the storytellers of the region’s history.

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Canyons carved out by the Colorado River and its tributaries expose rock layers deposited on top of each other over time; the youngest rocks at the top and the oldest at the bottom. These rock layers reveal fossils and traces of past life forms, principally from the Mesozoic Era, 248 to 65 million years ago.

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Fossils preserved in the rocks of Glen Canyon are evidence of the life and changes that occurred during the Mesozoic Era and add to our understanding of biodiversity and evolutionary history.

 

Thanks for reading , Steve & Martine

 

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