Massive flood pours through the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon | Image: National Geographic

It’s been a very long time since water last flooded through the Grand Canyon – these days the Colorado River prefers to take it more slowly. But for three days, torrents of water will once again be flowing through the Canyon, thanks to a temporary opening of a dam further upstream.

Why? The Glen Canyon Dam, constructed in 1963, radically changed the composition of the Colorado river, removing most of the sediments from the water. Downstream it used to be muddy until the dam came along, which was perfect habitat for several species of animals.

Not long after the dam started operating, the muddier areas turned clearer because of the lack of sediments. But wait a minute… isn’t it better to have nice crystal clear water? Maybe for photographs, but not for much else. Lack of sediment means lack of nutrients – in fact, four species of fish were made extinct because of the lack of sediment, and two species have been pushed close to the edge of becoming extinct.

The water starts to pour through the dam | Image: CNN By opening the dam again for a few days, it is hoped that fresh sediment will flow down the Colorado River, bringing new life to areas that were on the verge of death. Although perhaps the area right underneath the dam won’t be so happy about things – a massive 41,000 cubic feet of water will flow through the dam every second, five times the dam’s usual output.

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2 Responses

  1. Great article, glad to hear that some one is looking out for the Canyon.

  2. Do you know if the any part of this flooding can adversely affect the areas around the dam wall?

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