NAU exhibit showcases the lost world of Glen Canyon

In 1965 photographer Tad Nichols captured this image of Cathedral in the Desert, a monument in Glen Canyon, Arizona., that is now 100 feet under water.

Special Collections and Archives at NAU’s Cline Library recently unveiled a new exhibit, Images of a Lost World: Glen Canyon on the Colorado. The exhibit, which librarian Hank Hassell curated, features 56 photographs of Glen Canyon and its tributaries before the magnificent canyon complex was flooded by the waters impounded by Glen Canyon Dam.

The physical exhibit is available for public viewing through July. An online version of is available now and into the future at

Images of a Lost World features the scenic wonders of a pristine, pre-dam Glen Canyon from several perspectives, including a modern history of the canyon, its prehistoric Native American inhabitants and the archaeological resources once found in Glen Canyon.

The beginning of the exhibit features 1953 U.S. Geological Survey 15-minute topographic maps that show the full extent of Glen Canyon from Hite, Utah, to Lees Ferry, Arizona, before the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.

The locations of the photographs in the exhibit are marked on these maps in order to provide geographical context. The images are arranged by river mile, allowing the visitor to make their way down the river both literally and figuratively, and interpretive text at selected points in the display provides additional historical and cultural context.

In addition, display cases feature the “discovery” of Forgotten Canyon, the recreational pioneers of the upper Colorado River, the controversy surrounding the protection and eventual flooding of Rainbow Bridge National Monument, plus a selection of recommended books on Glen Canyon and its history for those interested in pursuing the subject in greater depth.

The images in the exhibit were all drawn from photographic collections housed at Special Collections and Archives.  Photographers represented include folk singer and activist Katie Lee (1919-2017), noted landscape photographer Josef Muench (1904-1998), and Emery Kolb (1881-1976), who with his brother Ellsworth took some of the first motion pictures along the Colorado in 1911.  Images from the collections of river runners Tad Nichols, Margaret Eiseman, P.T. Reilly, Kenneth Brownlee, James “Stretch” Fretwell and others also are on display.

The main exhibit, located in the atrium of Special Collections and Archives on the second floor of Cline Library, is open to the public during Special Collections and Archives’ open hours.

Two smaller satellite exhibits feature additional images. A display in the Scholars’ Corner coffee shop on the first floor of the library is available to view when the coffee shop is open.  The second is in Cline Library’s public exhibit space, which is on the east side of the Jean Collins Reading Room on the first floor of the library; it is available to view whenever the library is open.

Top photo: In 1965 photographer Tad Nichols captured this image of Cathedral in the Desert, a monument in Glen Canyon, Arizona, that is now 100 feet under water.

NAU Communications