I was 13 years old when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. It was spring break, and my parents took my brother and me on a trip to Arizona. Before we went to the canyon, we did touristy things -- bought turquoise earrings, checked out crystals in Sedona, rode the Pink Jeep tours. That was all fun, in a typical vacation kind of way. And then we got to the Grand Canyon. I remember stepping out to the viewpoint for the first time. I was from Maryland and had never seen anything like this. There were no words for the colors, the silence, the wildness, the space. This was why we were here.
We stayed in a little one-room cabin, and we still laugh about how we all had to put up with my dad snoring all night. The next morning we hiked a little bit on a trail. It was steep and icy and I remember being nervous. The views were amazing, dizzying. I wondered about the people who hiked all the way down to the bottom. We turned around after a little while and headed back up the trail, sufficiently challenged and satisfied, humbled and in awe.
I overheard a woman exclaim: “It’s so beautiful, it looks manmade!” I remember thinking that was a weird thing to say. To me, the canyon was so beautiful because I didn’t see any sign of people. Because it was wild and natural, created by water and wind and time.
This place left its mark on me and I always remember that family vacation. Two decades later, I got to raft the Grand Canyon, diving deeper into this place, immersing myself into its timeless magic. I didn’t sleep much on that trip, either – the stars at night were so beautiful, I wanted to stay up and not miss a second of it.
But today this place, this magic, is threatened. American Rivers named the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon America's #1 Most Endangered River for 2015. From a massive construction project in the heart of the canyon, to radioactive pollution from uranium mining, to a development that could drain vital groundwater supplies, this place faces a battery of threats that could forever harm the very values that make it so special.
Now that I'm a mom, I'm thinking about the family vacations I want to take with my boys when they're older. The Grand Canyon is at the top of the list. I want them to feel what I felt, standing on the rim for the first time. I don't want that experience to be tarnished and cheapened by pollution, trash and noise.
Have you visited the Grand Canyon? Have you shared it with your kids? Please share your own stories and speak up for protecting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon so that it remains protected for all of us, for all time.
Klean Voice Contributor Amy Kober is the Senior Director of Communications at American Rivers, as well as the mother of two little boys. She lives in Portland, Oregon.