Since moving down to California I've been wanting to kayak the slow moving waters of the lower colorado river, down stream the grand canyon. The stretch below hoover dam seemed like a good place to start, where the water moves slow enough for doing a loop trip with a touring boat, where it's flat enough to shoot the wildlife from the water. The country got a little carried away with our dam building back mid-century. A whole chain of dams run up the colorado. The were on the verge of damming the upper part of grand canyon itself until the public out cry. The untamed river must have been a wild place back in the day, before humans made such a vivid mark, but there's something also bizarre about having these long skinny lakes cutting deep into the desert floor. It's a unique paddling experience, one that offers a unique view of the desert ecosystem.
One of the deepest of these ravines is the aptly named Black Canyon. The cliffs are step, casting early shadows. Succulents, wildflowers and cacti dot the sharp rocks. This desert is particularly harsh. Seeing it while skimming along glassy waters offsets that reality, while at the same time allowing me to venture deep within it. The silence seems pure. My mind relaxes into its natural state. More than for the scenery, it's that which draws me here, that settling of the psyche. That, and the chance to see the Desert Bighorns.
I've been lucky enough to arrive at a time when boat traffic is restricted. It's early spring, and the canyon is in bloom. Mother Bighorn Sheep are grazing at the waters edge, keeping watch over their young. Awareness of their surroundings key to their survival, the young being particularly vulnerable to mountain lions. They seem to accept that my presence isn't a threat.
As I approach the dam the sound of water rushing through the canyon begins to be replaced with a low hum echoing off the canyon walls. Rounding another corner reveals it's source, an endless stream of helicopters. Every few seconds another comes into view, packed with las vegas tourists, headed up beyond the dam, through lake mead and to the grand canyon. Years prior I had worked for one of these same helicopter tour companies that now flies overhead, at the canyon's south rim in Arizona. Now I see them with mostly indifference, but can't help but notice their dissonance against the peaceful state to which the canyon has lulled me.