Image: Friday Skyday
A few impressions from a drive to Page
Yesterday I drove the ol’ Silver Bullet from the Great Sage Plain in southeastern Utah, crossed the San Juan River at Mexican Hat, through Monument Valley, and onward to Page, Arizona, home to Glen Canyon Dam. The air was clearer than I’ve seen it in a long time, due surely to the 2019 shutdown of Navajo Generating Station—once one of the biggest polluters in the West. Even the wildfire smoke that had marred summer vistas for the last couple of years has blown to other places.
The views were spectacular. Billowing thunderheads, tinged with pink from the red earth reflection below, skittered across the brilliant blue. While Page got no rain, surrounding areas seemed to be getting drenched, and the highway’s asphalt was lined with green, an indication that the rains had been there not long ago.
I had figured that high gas prices would hamper tourism in this area, where long-distance driving is the norm. I was wrong. The scenic pullouts in Monument Valley were packed with vehicles and gawkers; Kayenta’s gas stations and fast food joints were overflowing with cars; and Page is bustling with tourists, most of them driving cars that are two to three times the size of, 32 years newer than, and with about one-eighth the gas mileage of the Silver Bullet. California license plates dominate, but I’ve also seen ones from New Jersey, Colorado, Wyoming, and, of course, Arizona and Utah. In the Page Safeway I heard several different languages.
Yes, Page is busy despite low Lake Powell levels, despite the fact that nine of the reservoir’s 11 boat ramps are unusable, despite the fact that one of the community’s major economic drivers—the Navajo Generating Station—shut down. Why? Well, as this KJZZ radio interview with Gregg Martinez, the city’s economic development coordinator explains:
“Page, ironically enough, goes step by step with slot canyons and Horeshoe Bend. While Lake Powell was the foundation of tourism maybe in 1980, 1990, the early 2000s. The Instagram wave of pictures that came from slot canyons and Horseshoe Bend has only pushed more people into our hotels and our restaurants, whereas lake goers typically come, fill up their gas tanks, grab their groceries, then they’re out to the lake and very rarely do they utilize our hotels or restaurants whereas the land-based tours … consistently put people in our restaurants, shops, and hotels.”
Very interesting. I’ll do more on Page and its economy in a future post. And now, I’m off to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.