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Drought Reveals Spectacular Rock Formations in US Reservoir

  • Victoria Cavaliere

A long-lost natural wonder has been re-discovered in the western United States. For decades, it was hidden under the massive, man-made Lake Powell in the state of Utah. But now, nature seems to be gaining the upper hand.

Lake Powell, one of the largest reservoirs in the western United States, has lost more than 60-percent of its water to the worst drought in 500 years. But, conservationists are thrilled.

"It covered one of the most incredible places on earth. Truly, one of the most spectacular regions," says Mr. Peterson.

Chris Peterson is with a group that wants to protect Glen Canyon. And for the first time since the Colorado River was dammed in the 1960's, inundating 300 kilometers, the canyon is making a comeback.

Conservationists say as water levels drop, visitors can see long hidden rock-formations, Indian ruins, and winding side canyons. And now, Glen Canyon's most famous feature has emerged from the depths--an enormous cavern called "the Cathedral of the Desert."

Rich Ingebreston, a physician from Salt Lake City, Utah, founded the Glen Canyon Institute to lobby for the restoration of the area, including the cavern.

"It is actually overwhelming. I cannot believe in my wildest dreams we would ever see this place, because it is almost mythical," says Rich Ingebreston.

A narrow slot at the top of the cavern sends a shaft of light into the cathedral like space. A pristine waterfall serves as a natural alter. Only a handful of people have been here.

Preserving the cavern would mean an end to Lake Powell.

"We need to restore water, that is absolutely correct, for times of drought and fluctuating river flows. But, you don't have to store water in our beautiful places," says Mr. Ingebreston.

Rich Ingebreston's group argues there is plenty of storage room for Colorado River water in Lake Mead, below the Grand Canyon. But U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton says both lakes are needed.

"We have only been able to withstand five years of very severe drought in the West because we had water stored in Lake Powell and Lake Mead," says Gale Norton.

Even as people debate the issue, nature may have the last word if water levels change. For now, at least, this is a tantalizing preview.