THE BLOG

Don't Niagara Falls (the) Grand Canyon

05/11/2015 06:01 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2016

I recently got back from a lengthy trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon (it is somewhat frowned on by experts to call it the Grand Canyon), and stopped for a few hours at its confluence with the Little Colorado River, where I'm given to understand a plan exists to build one terminus of a gondola called the Escalade, which will connect with the canyon rim (and a new complex of restaurants, shops and hotels) in order to whisk ten thousand Las Vegas tourists down daily and release them to wander through a cultural center, over a "skywalk," and no doubt among a few more shops and restaurants. If worse comes to worst, I'm hoping they'll at least have good WiFi.

The Escalade's proponents argue that none of the land affected by the development is considered holy, which position is not only disputed in readily available online testimony, but made manifestly absurd by a moment's contemplation of the site itself. One needs no great familiarity with local religious customs or chain of historical documentation to recognize the sacred in it. I would include photographs if I thought they could do the setting any sort of justice; let's just say it's as perfect a spot as you could ever set a creation myth, and about the last place any sane person should ever want to see cement being poured.

Speaking of creation myths, by the way, a growing number of rafters on the Colorado are Christians of a rather devout sort, whose explanation for the canyon's formation is that it was where the flood of Genesis drained. As long as they respect their surroundings -- and our science textbooks -- I suppose it's up to them what they want to believe. There are also practitioners of Shinto who consider Grand Canyon a holy place, to say nothing of the local Navajo, Hopi and Zuni. I may be an atheist, but I'm convinced.

It might seem an obvious obscenity, but there are some rather shadowy forces with some deep pockets pushing for it, and a few politicians saying some alarmingly ambivalent things about it. If you want to see what you can do to help, I recommend visiting grandcanyontrust.org and reading more.