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Field Notebook
Field Notebook

Lower San Juan
Spring, 2010
Paddling the San Juan River into Lake Powell

(photo: cc)
(photo: cc)
Where the San Juan slows into Lake Powell, it dumps its sediment load originally bound for the sea. Sediment backs up, forming a new landscape. The river has jumped its channel and now flows across open country. It has hit a bedrock ridge and is pouring over into a fresh waterfall.

Miles below the waterfall, it is not so much a canyon. More, it is a slow river winding among red buttes. The water is gentle, beginning to fill in beind shorelines, ponds forming. Dead switches are going under, branches shivering and tapping in the current.

Soon, if I don't paddle, I hardly move, current slowing to a crawl. Boulders above shore are eroded weirdly, turned into polygons by the last time the lake was up at this level. I glide alongside a cliff not its native red color but stained marble white by high lake levels, mid-90s, 1983. The current appears and vanishes, mercurial river corkscrewing into the reservoir. It is still dark with sediment. It is still a river.

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