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The photographic history of construction at Glen Canyon Damsite - 1956 to 1966

March 14, 2023
by John S. Weisheit

This site is also under construction

PROJECT: Colorado River Storage Project Act (1956); Glen Canyon Dam (GCD) & Glen Canyon Reservoir (now Lake Powell) in northern Arizona; principal agency is Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).

  • Commissioner of Reclamation in 1957: Wilbur A. Dexheimer
  • Commisssioner of Reclamation in 1959: Floyd Dominy (oral history)
  • Chief Engineer (onsite) for GCD Project: Lemuel (Lem) Wylie
  • Chief Design Engineer of Concrete Dams: Ernest R. Schultz (design features)
  • Public Affairs Officer for GCD Project: W.L. (Bud) Rusho (oral history)
  • Contractor: Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation, New York City.
  • A dispute from the labor force emerged at the beginning of the project.
  • The Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation suffered bankruptcy and by 1971, operations were dissolved. Wikipedia.

There were nine baseline objectives to complete the construction of Glen Canyon Dam:

  1. Navajo sandstone as bedrock for this facility was the greatest challenge for the design engineers. GC Dam is the first dam by Reclamation to utilize computer programming to calculate the stress load of a cantilevered arch dam. GC Dam is not a gravity dam. To qualify as a gravity dam, the dam's weight must exceed the load and the hydraulic lift potential of a full reservoir.
  2. Build a community (Page, Arizona) with utilities (water, power and sewage), provide housing, warehouses and office space for a federal bureaucracy and for contractor and sub-contractor employees.
  3. Build a highway bridge to connect the western and eastern rims of a wide and entrenched Glen Canyon.
  4. Preparations to dewater the river and expose the bedrock below the sand and gravel beds (photos of paleoflood scour).
  5. Preparations to build forms to accept a matrix of reinforced steel and concrete, and then circulate refrigerated water through pipes to dissapate the heat of setting concrete. This includes the batching of sand, gravel, portland cement and pozzolan (a binder of volcanic origin).
  6. Grouting and rock bolts: (1) Drill holes into bedrock to install rock bolts to prevent the delamination of Navajo Sandstone. (2) Drill holes through the hardened concrete and/or bedrock to inject grout to seal the voids and cracks and prevent seepage and hydraulic lift of the superstructure (two phases of injection: low-pressure & high-pressure). Note: The dam does leak and sandstone slabs do exfoliate (AGU paper); this will be discussed at a later time, below.
  7. Prepartions to build a powerhouse of turbines and a network of transmission lines to distribute electrical power.
  8. Seal (plug) the diversion tunnels with concrete and fill the reservoir, which took 17-years, and more on that subject at a later time. General Principles to Govern, and Operating Criteria for, Glen Canyon Reservoir (Lake Powell) and Lake Mead During the Lake Powell Filling Period.
  9. Build a Visitor Center and organize a dedication ceremony by Lady Bird Johnson.


  • Minimum hourly wage - $1.15
  • Median annual income - $5,700
  • Average cost of a new car $4,300
  • Median total cost of modest home - $18,000
  • Median cost for a dozen eggs - $0.57
  • Median cost for a gallon of fuel - $0.31
  • Median cost for a pack of cigarettes - $0.25
  • Median cost for a six pack of beer - $1.71
Bureau of Reclamation



Photos and movies
  • Mud rapids and mud islands above Farley Canyon
  • Methane gas eruptions ner Sheep Canyon near Sheep Canyon.
  • Subsidence features at Good Hope Bay & bathemetry images.
  • Slope failures at Good Hope Bay
  • Rim rock collapse below full pool elevation; 2022 near Warm Creek.
  • Massive rim rock collapse above full pool elevation at Ocean Point; 2004 lower Cataract Canyon.
  • Exfoliation features in Lower Cataract Canyon
  • Exfoliation at Tapestry Wall.
  • Rapids over Quaternary gravel deposits above Farley Canyon: 2005.


 J. L Digby 

  • 1958 - 29 photos: bridge; mobile cableway towers; concrete batching; diversion tunnels; employee housing; excavate spillway approach; excavate keyways.
  • 1959 - 73 photos: sandstorms; grouting; coffer dams; tunnel adit for service road to rim; concrete batching; excavate keyways; excavate powerhouse building; garage building.
  • All Digby photos combined

J.H. Enright

  • 1957 - 21 photos: batching aggregate, cement & pollazon; excavate diversion tunnels; warehouse construction; lateral adit to left diversion tunnel.
  • 1958 - 31 photos: diesel-powered generators; highway bridge; water storage tank; sewer treatment plant; water treatment plant; mobile 50-ton highline cable span; excavate spillway approach; construct municipal building and laboratory; river crossing foot bridge; excavate foundation inspection tunnels.
  • All Enright photos combined

Fred S. Finch
1956 - 31 photos combined: Highway to Bitter Springs (89 southbound);

L. E. Fine

  • 1962 - 8 photos: electric transmission towers
  • 1963 - 2 photos: communication towers & facilities
  • All Fine photos combined

H. Freebury

R. C. Gaulke

C. V. Gezelius

  • 1959 - 19 photos: pozzolan mining/processing; portland cement mining/processing.
  • 1960 - 1 photo: pozzolan mining/processing.
  • 1961 - 6 photos: pozzolan mining/processing.
  • 1962 - 3 photos: pozzolan mining/processing.
  • All Gezelius photos combined

Owen Hill

V. E. Larson

C. R. Long

W. L. Rusho - Public relations officer and supervisor for the project photographers.

  • 1960 - 4 photos: test flow at right diversion tunnel; spillway gates; concrete transport buckets.
  • 1961 - 1 photo: aggregate hauling.
  • 1962 - 1 photo: massive bridge component for powerplant.
  • All Rusho photos combined
  • Note: Rusho has many photos in various collections.

F. B. Slote

  • 1956 - 2 photos: access road along river corridor; lowering heavy equipment into canyon.
  • 1957 - 22 photos: right diversion tunnel portal; housing for construction workers; highway construction; aggregate processing; bridge; construction of tower for highline cable lift; highscalers on cliff face removing loose rocks; groundwater drill rig; installing rock bolts; air compressor station.
  • All Slote photos combined

A. E. Turner

  • 1957 - 60 photos combined:
  • 1958 - 140 photos combined:
  • 1959 - 96 photos combined:
  • 1960 - 139 photos combined:
  • 1961 - 227 photos combined:
  • 1962 - 216 photos combined:
  • 1963 - 145 photos combined:
  • 1964 - 136 photos combined:


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