The Grand Canyon Skywalk: What Would Edward Abbey Think?

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  02.07.06 | 12:24 PM ET

We’re big fans of the land. Mountains. Mesas. Wide open spaces. All of it. So whenever we come across questionable development on Mother Nature’s fine works, we often find ourselves wondering, What Would Edward Abbey Think? In this first installment of our new recurring feature, we ask what the environmental advocate and author of Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang would think of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The Hualapai Tribe plans to open a glass bridge—it looks more like a see-through horseshoe to me—extending 70 feet beyond the rim of the Grand Canyon, 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. It was scheduled to open last month, but its debut has just been pushed back until the end of 2006. Read all about it in this press release. An artist’s rendering is above.

Five-foot-tall glass walls will line the sides of the Skywalk, and the structure will be able “to withstand the weight of 71 fully loaded Boeing 747 airplanes.” That’s quite an engineering feat. But then again, so is the Glen Canyon Dam that Abbey so despised. The Hualapai Tribe seems to be promoting the Skywalk as the centerpiece of an effort to bring more travelers to Grand Canyon West from Las Vegas, which is just 120 miles away. I understand the need to lure visitors with something spectacular, but is the Skywalk really necessary? Isn’t the view from the rim spectacular enough? It is, after all, the Grand Canyon

13 Comments for The Grand Canyon Skywalk: What Would Edward Abbey Think?

Kentj 02.07.06 | 5:41 PM ET

When will the new dam be built in the Grand Canyon.

I hear the Twin Dam project is well underway and will include tow dams in the bottom of the Grand Canyon so that many more people will be able to see the full length of our national park.

These new and powerful dams will provide water and power for the southwest for generations to come, will you be able to see the news Dam Scheduled to breka ground soon from the indian skywalk?

Jill Myers 02.08.06 | 10:48 AM ET

What’s even more absurd is that I heard the Hualapai are bulding a highway from Pierce Ferry Road to their reservation to make it easier for the thousands of bus traffic they’ll be expecting.  They will be destroying hundreds of Joshua Trees (in the second largest Joshua Tree forest in the world) as well as destroying ancient Cohina cooking pits that have dated back 3000 years. In this area, you can find ancient indian pottery, petroglyphs, etc., but now, all of it will be destroyed. Sad….very sad.

kentj 02.08.06 | 11:17 AM ET

The Highway will be good - they will need it for the Casino, Amusement park and Marina especially after the Twin Dam Project begins construction.

Imagine power boating the length of the Grand Canyon all the way to Lake Mead.

Ron Lee 02.08.06 | 1:00 PM ET

Well lets see…. a new highway, two new dams, the skywalk. The next thing will probably be some sort of tram from the rim to the water, some sort of “Maid of the Mist” tour boats to take tourists out on the reservoir, and then later on a special vertical marine railway to take visitor’s boats down from the rim to the boat ramps. Seem’s absurd, doesn’t it? Fast forward about 40 years and guess what?

kentj 02.08.06 | 1:57 PM ET

Actually I think it sounds really cool - probably the only way that I will ever get to see the entire canyon - Bring it on the sooner the better.

Ron Lee 02.08.06 | 6:15 PM ET

Wonder if they will allow bungy jumping from the skywalk…. oh and you know what would really be great for tourism and improve on what nature has already provided? How about one of those hugh Kodak or Fuji observation towers? It wouldn’t improve the view of the canyons (what’s another 200-300 feet compared to 4000 feet?) but it would help people see the desert and distant mountains along with the canyon. In fact it would make it easier to spot where the nearest MacDonalds is! Actually I like the Skywalk idea but lament what happens to the natural state of things when crowds arrive.

Tambourine Man 02.11.06 | 6:44 PM ET

Pretty cheesy. But what are you gonna do? The Indians got a raw deal, and as far as I’m concerned, they can do whatever they want on their rez lands. It just sucks that this is what they chose to do. But hey, they wanna bring in the bucks, and it’s either tourism, mining or gambling that’ll do it. My vote is for gambling.

As for Cactus Ed, here’s a quote about the Arizona tribes from his essay The BLOB Comes to Arizona:
“Although they own and control nearly one-fifth of Arizona’s real estate, they have not done well, on the whole, in our modern industrial economy. In other words, they are poor people. They live in shacks, drive secondhand Oldsmobiles and eat too much Wonder Bread. The reasons for this deplorable situation are many, varied and complicated, as any sociologist can explain to you, but basically it comes down to the fact, observed all over the world, that the descendants of hunters and warriors do not make good clerk-typists or computer tapers.”

George Kaczmarek 06.15.06 | 2:06 PM ET

Why nature can not be nature. Why people always destroy nature for money? I will not go to Grand Canyon any more; I can see tall buildings, bridges and other structure at any city.

John 03.17.07 | 11:31 PM ET

It’s pretty obivious what Mr. Abbey would think about the new addition to the rim of the canyon. It would make him sick.

Kent 03.18.07 | 9:50 AM ET

Oh I don’t know - when you consider Abbey he was just another eco terror monger - the real tragedy is what is going to come when the south west runs out of water… then lets see how many freaking bleeding hearts would be opposed to finishing the twin dams in the Grand Canyon… the big mistake was making it a national park - what a misguided idea - I mean the national parks are for the people, right? Not some religion who call the earth “Mother” - as it stand right now you can only see 10% of the GC - if we had a couple really long lakes in the bottom we couls all see it from the comfort of our gas burning power boats - and the benefit is that excess water would be stored in the deep canyons of the Lake - dang that is a good idea…

Mesquite 04.03.07 | 9:56 AM ET

Standing in a slow line, Abbey would say warriors can’t run cash registers fast enough.  Native clerks fill out each Visa form by hand.  But the Hualapai did alright for themselves.  Yes choppers and painted buses are industrial tourism but it is their park.  Tours feature Hualapai culture like Eagle Rock, dances, and sustainable housing (examples of SW native abodes).  All improvements over the petting zoo at the ranch.  Do we care whether the road is dusty or paved?  Abbey would say just don’t let the grader operators have air conditioned cabs - unsporting.  Road projects and the green McDonalds arch in Sedona are more startling and offensive.  So Hualapai print tickets and sell jewelry.  Ravens get people to feed them.  Natives, Asians, Blacks and Whites alike get butterflies and walk funny on the glass.  The stupid people wonder why Overton Resort closed on Lake Mead last weekend.  Or maybe just don’t know what is going on in the Southwest.

Fecal McStool 06.18.07 | 7:11 PM ET

I like to talk about stool.

ME 09.07.08 | 7:18 AM ET

To heck with the skywalk if that thing breakes the grand canyon is ruined forever and it’s all the owners fault. Wait who can forget the UNESCO for allowing this kind of stuff!!!!

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