Dean M. Chriss
Grand View Primeval, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Grand View Primeval

(Click image to enlarge)

No spectacle of nature is so grand that people will not destroy it for profit. Such was almost the story of Canyonlands National Park. Seeking to stockpile uranium for atomic weapons, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) offered large financial incentives to uranium prospectors in the 1950s. To give prospectors access to pristine and still largely unexplored landscapes of southeast Utah, the AEC invaded with bulldozers, carving nearly 1000 miles of primitive road into the desert. Many of those miles were on lands that now comprise Canyonlands National Park. Fortunately the mines here were not economically viable and most were abandoned before extensive damage occurred. The area that would become Canyonlands National Park in 1964 was spared only because there was no profit in its destruction.

Most of the old prospecting roads were closed and are now fading from view as erosion and spreading vegetation take them back to nature. A few remain open for recreational use. This photograph recreates the grand view as it was for millions of years before the uranium miners arrived. Since I have no desire to memorialize the greed and destruction they represent, I have eliminated one such road from this scene along with a couple of fading scars from the 1950s.