I can still remember very clearly what it was like at Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon when we went there as a youth group. I was maybe 12 at the time. The train car at the base of the falls was a gift shop, and there was a large bridge to cross the Provo River. There was a large pool at the base of the falls filled with fish and for a nickel you could purchase fish food and they would swarm to the top when you tossed a handful onto the water.
There was a tram that you could ride for an exorbitant amount, up to a restaurant on the cliff where the very wealthy could go to enjoy looking down on the less-affluent feeding the fish in the pool below them. I wonder what they could throw down to make them rise and swarm to the surface?
I can’t say that I was UNhappy when an avalanche crushed the tourist trap and ruined the tram. I was 16 at the time and I actually thought it was a good thing. A few years later when I lived in Orem and would frequent the scenic drive up the canyon, I wished they would go all the way and cut down the tram lines that rent a scar across the view of the falls. When they finally did, I rejoiced.
I was there at the base of the falls with my children and sister in the car when the abandoned restaurant caught fire. The trees were my primary concern and I called 911 post-haste (though it had already been reported and crews were on the way).
I was absolutely appalled and disgusted when a group formed to “renew” the tourist efforts and re-build the tram. They called themselves “Friends of Bridal Veil Falls”, or some garbage like that. Why and how could they justify such a move? I was a regular in attendance at the falls- training for my 1/2 marathon along the trail, often with a child in a stroller; riding my bike up and down the canyon; hiking in the moonlight up to the falls and watching the music as it cascaded in a true veil of light; watching the sunrise create a thousand diamonds…. I was a friend of the falls.
Why would you want to corrupt such beauty with a gift shop? Or a muddy fish pond? Or another scar across the facade by re-building the tram? What’s wrong with keeping sacred the immense experience of this place?
Well, I guess my moving to Colorado altered the frame of existence. Because on my way home from Northern Utah I took my kids back to those falls, to walk the trail as we had done so many times before, and bathe our hot bodies in the ice-cold flow. I wasn’t surprised at the number of vehicles in the vicinity- there are many parks and plenty of recreation opportunities, and it was a hot day on a holiday weekend- but nothing prepared me for the number of people at the falls.
There must have been at least 100. With camp chairs. And coolers. Set up on the trail, in the water, everywhere. There were multiple tents set up with vendors, and one permanent structure where you could buy stuff, or rent a bike, or a kayak. There was a dam and two signs in the middle of the water warning people of the live fish and discouraging wading and swimming. The fish-food was back. The price was a quarter.
I tried not to puke. Now, I’m not anti-tourism. I would say that I’m actually pro-actively involved in helping establish a recreation-based economy in the place I live now. But I AM anti-destruction of beautiful, wild places. Now, I know what you’ll say; it’s not “destruction” adding some structures, or live fish. And it’s not really a “wild” place since there is a paved trail and a large bridge/railing…. but that’s not the point. The falls are a wild place. And in some ways sacred. It felt like someone had just pooped on my scriptures.
Okay- sorry for being so offensive- but they offended me with their signs driven into the water.
We still had a good time. We waded in the cold water, and hiked up the water way, and the kids even laid in the water and let it tickle their bodies. I told them we couldn’t leave until they were drenched. They loved it and it was hard to pull them away to resume our homeward-bound journey. But leave we did. Though I think I left a part of me right there. Right there looking up always at this immense display of raw nature. And when I close my eyes I can remember that view at any time of day and night and experience it as it was, in my memory and in my heart, and not as it is. Or as they may want it to become.