Cry Me a River

Today we’re thinking about Pack Creek Ranch in southern Utah and an incredible archive of material, gathered by river guide and environmental activist Ken Sleight, that was consumed by fire in early June, 2021.

The archive held over 50 years of photographs, writings, and correspondence chronicling Ken Sleight’s years of guiding on the Colorado River, his fight to stop the damming of Glen Canyon and the filling of Lake Powell in the 1950s and 60s, and his close friendship with Edward Abbey, author of The Monkey Wrench gang. Ken is the inspiration for Abbey’s character Seldom Seen Smith.

In honor of Ken Sleight and all who are out there working to save our planet we share again “Cry me a River” – the dramatic stories of three pioneering river activists—Ken Sleight, Katie Lee, and Mark Dubois and the damming of wild rivers in the west.

Katie Lee, born in 1917, a former Hollywood starlet, ran the Colorado River through Glen Canyon long before it was dammed, and in 1955 was the 175th person to run the Grand Canyon. An outspoken conservationist, singer and writer, she spent her life fighting for rivers.

Mark Dubois, co-founder of Friends of the River, Earth Day and International Rivers Network, began as a river guide who opened up rafting trips to disabled people in the 1970s. Dubois protested the damming and flooding of the Stanislaus River by hiding himself in the river canyon and chaining himself to a rock as the water rose in 1979.

We thank producer, river activist and “Keeper,” Martha Ham for her inspiration, her work on this story, and for chronicling Ken Sleight’s life and world on the river. This piece is part of Stories from the Heart of the Land, a series featuring intimate stories from around the world about the human connection to land and landscape, produced by Atlantic Public media and supported by The Nature Conservancy. Special thanks to Jay Allison and Emily Botein.