It was barely dawn. We huddled amongst hard, orange rocks of Zion National Park, listening carefully to the trickle of water of that once carved its way through the canyon.
Peter, as usual, took a long look through his lens before taking the picture. The camera was larger than my forearm, and I wondered at his patience. Then he showed me what he captured. The tiny LCD screen revealed a new perspective on the river below – a view I would have never realized that was hidden right in front of me.
“It’s how I see the world,” he explained. “Some people write poems or bring binoculars. I take pictures, which I share with my students, friends and family.”
Peter, an elementary school teacher from Switzerland, was one of ten guests participating in the Canyons Photography in the American Southwest tour with our partners at Natural Habitat. As we mixed gorgeous hikes with photography lessons, I was struck by the amazing and diverse ways the group saw—and shared—nature. Most importantly, I was grateful for the role this would play in conservation.
The parks we visited are living testaments to the power of promoting nature’s beauty. American artist Frederick S. Dellenbaugh spent the summer of 1903 in the area now known as Zion National Park. He wrote about his experience and his paintings were exhibited at the Saint Louis World’s Fair in 1904, introducing the world to this awe-inspiring part of the country. His art and powerful words inspired President Taft to visit the area, and then to designate it as Mukuntuweap National Monument. Over the years, its name has changed, the area of land protected was expanded, and finally it became a park in 1956.
Zion is just one of a string of parks in the Colorado basin, each protected because of its unique beauty, and each crucial to the basin’s conservation. Like the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, the Colorado River supports people and nature, fuels businesses, and provides important ecosystem services in a desert region. Both rivers also face similar threats, including overconsumption and climate change. Parks and protected areas provide much-needed respite for the freshwater systems that underpin life in the surrounding areas.
Peter, through his camera’s lens, was telling this story. His photos captured the diverse landscapes, communities, wildlife and waters of the southwest. When he shares these photos he will share the beauty of the region, and why it is so important that we all work together to protect it. Hopefully, his photos will inspire conservation.
Based on what I saw in that LCD screen, I have no doubt they will.
By Catherine Blancard, Lead Specialist, Freshwater, WWF
Learn more about WWF’s Fresh Water Conservation work in the Rio Grande.
See more photos of the trip below!