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On Lake Powell, learning and helping go hand in hand

What do you get when you put a professor and seven students on a 55-foot houseboat on Utah's Lake Powell to pick up trash for five days?

You get good times, great exploring, some personal mentoring, and lots of deeper understanding of topics such as environmental science and cultural resource management.

Oh, and cleaner public lands.

For five days in June, a volunteer group of environmental studies and history students joined History professor Andrew Gulliford, working with the National Park Service's Trash Tracker program on Lake Powell, in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The 185-mile-long reservoir on the Colorado River sees more than 3 million visitors each year to its 19,000 miles of canyon-cut desert shoreline.

As they traveled around the lake, the group lived on the houseboat, using a small motorboat for forays to explore the area and remove trash from the area around Lake Powell. While exploring the lake's meandering canyons and slickrock landscapes, students were also able to see first-hand the effects of issues including public lands management, waste and recycling, and water use in the West.

And then there were the mid-day swims to relieve the 95-degree desert heat, wanderings up side canyons, and nights out under the stars.

Most important, though, the trip also meant leaving Lake Powell a better place than they found it. The group hauled away 3,500 pounds of trash that included golf balls, bottles, cans, wrappers, fireworks, small appliances and cookware, fishing poles, water ski tow ropes, swim suits and bikini tops, tiki lanterns, plastic chairs, a pair of walkie talkies, a stuffed penguin, and an abandoned 24-foot speedboat.

See what it was like below (all photos by Andrew Gulliford):

Learn more about Environmental Studies at Fort Lewis College.

Students gather at the Dominguez-Escalante 1776 inscription. 

Students gather at the Dominguez-Escalante 1776 inscription: (l-r) Jay Rezabek, Maggie Bachrodt, Brandon Francis, Daniel Frauenhoff, Anthony Reinert, and Nicholas Kanelos in front.

On the Lake Powell clean-up trip, Navajo student Brandon Francis was able to visit Rainbow Bridge for the first time.

On the Lake Powell clean-up trip, Navajo student Brandon Francis was able to visit Rainbow Bridge for the first time. Rainbow Bridge National Monument is a major cultural and sacred site for the Navajo Nation.

In a slot canyon off Anasazi Canyon at Lake Powell, the FLC student volunteers enjoy a cool swim.

In a slot canyon off Anasazi Canyon at Lake Powell, the FLC student volunteers enjoy a cool swim: (l-r) Daniel Frauenhoff, Maggie Bachrodt (standing), Brandon Francis, and Capt. Bruce George.

 As an afternoon thunderstorm approaches, the 55-foot-long houseboat The Trash Trackers docks near Face Canyon.

As an afternoon thunderstorm approaches, the 55-foot-long houseboat The Trash Trackers docks near Face Canyon. Members of the crew, who were official VIPs (Volunteers-in-the Parks), prepare to dig holes for anchors. 

Maggie Bachrodt brings a broken umbrella towards our trash barge, The Eliminator.  

Maggie Bachrodt brings a broken umbrella towards our trash barge, The Eliminator. At her feet are gutted fish left in a former anchor hole.

The Fort Lewis College Environmental Studies crew stands atop the 55-long houseboat the Trash Tracker. 

The Fort Lewis College Environmental Studies crew stands atop the 55-long houseboat the Trash Tracker. In 24 years of the Trash Tracker program, this was the first time that the National Park Service invited college students to participate in what became an eco-field school at Lake Powell: (l-r) Anthony Reinert, Jay Rezabek, Maggie Bachrodt, Nicholas Kanelos, professor & trip coordinator Dr. Andrew Gulliford, Daniel Frauenhoff, and Brandon Francis.

In five days at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Fort Lewis College students combed the Lake Powell shoreline and collected 3,500 lbs. of trash.

In five days at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Fort Lewis College students combed the Lake Powell shoreline and collected 3,500 lbs. of trash. Students even dug out the hull of a 22-foot-long wrecked wooden boat from Padre Butte. This photo shows the National Park Service barge The Eliminator before students unloaded 57 garbage bags of trash.
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