“The North Canyon Pool”

Water is magnetic; we are perpetually drawn to it. Explorers camp and settlers settle where there is water. Nomads and desert travellers map their life by water. The first thing our spaceships look for is water. We are inseparable from water. 60% of our bodies are made of water, the brain and heart, 73%. Every day a gallon or more of water passes through us. That’s 20,000 gallons in 50 years. There is no boundary between water and us. Water goes throughout us. It is no wonder we are fascinated by it, and in love with it.

Deep in the heart of the Grand Canyon, in a section called Marble Canyon there is a break in the walls called North Canyon, wherein lies this pool. To get there requires a short but stout hike up through the layers of the Supai Sandstone. The Grand Canyon was created and carved by water. In North Canyon, water laid down all these layers of sand hundreds of millions of years ago, and then came back a few million years ago to finish making this side canyon. Repeated cataclysmic events flushing this small canyon with water and rock debris, in a thunder of power exciting to contemplate and frightening to behold, slowly carved this place. Millions of gallons of water, coming unexpectedly down out of the sky created huge floods. Silt, sand, pebbles, cobbles and huge boulders as big as refrigerators were the chiseling tools pushed by water that cut this cleft in the canyon.

After each flood the water vanished from the canyon as suddenly as it arrived, leaving small pools like this. When you walk around the final corner into this place a hush settles over you. Even the crunching of your footsteps on the gravel floor of the canyon sounds loud. The quiet transports you into a blissful reverie. The sound of water dripping into the pool becomes a symphony to your ears, and the song of the Canyon Wren like a Bach aria. One would expect to see an ancient bearded mystic meditating by the pool, playing his wooden flute. He is not here, but you are.

Like us, water has multiple personalities. The water that was here and will come again is a raging dragon of fire and fury. Sitting by this quiet pool you can feel the maelstrom of the flood. You understand that like the water you too can be a raging dragon, but now you are a serene pool. You can see through the surface of the water into what is below, in the murky depths. And suddenly you see what the water sees. You see your own power and fury, your mysterious depths, and your own reflection. For a few minutes you are surrounded by the peace and tranquility that envelops those who come here. Oracles come from places like this.


Chris Brown moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1969 to attend the university, where his photography is now part of Colorado Arts in Public Places. His first exhibit in Boulder was in 1974 and he has had more than a hundred since. He has been a board member of Open Studios, a member of The Dairy Arts Center’s jury committee and participated in various Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks art workshops.