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Grand Canyon Granary Gem

Last updated on February 2, 2022

Concept of image: 

As an environmentalist committed to stewardship who teaches about environmental policy like the Wilderness Act of 1964, I care about protecting special landscapes and their unique features and wilderness character.  “Wilderness” is a valuable resource and officially is defined as an area that must be five thousand acres in size, undeveloped and untrammeled by humans.  Wilderness areas have even more restrictions than National Parks or National Forests in terms of how humans can impact the areas.  Wilderness areas exist within National Parks and National Forests.

Having been raised in Colorado I have long been interested in the geology of the West; I am drawn to rugged, arid landscapes.  When I was 23, right after college, I rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon- a world heritage site- on a twenty one day private trip.  Now my own daughter is planning to do the same with my brother, her uncle, and two cousins.  I know they will find the experience and place as magical as I did so many years ago; I am thankful Grand Canyon National Park has been protected since 1919.  To remember their journey, I want to make a unique print for each of them, one which reflects my environmental ethic.

Tucked away in cliffs of side tributaries of the Grand Canyon, one can hike to see evidence of earlier cultures- Ancestral Puebloans and Fremont Native Americans who lived in North America before European colonialists arrived.  These early inhabitants of the Southwest created granaries, for storing food in high canyon walls.  The Antiquities Act of 1906 and the subsequent National Park System created in 1916, both provide protection of such cultural features.

For my master’s degree I studied the geology of the Grand Canyon, the exposed horizontal layers of rock that span over two billion years, formed by erosion of the Colorado River over a period of six million years as the Colorado Plateau uplifted.

This print project for me is about depicting a landscape with significant geological and archaeological features which have remain unchanged for at least a thousand years and which hopefully will be around “unchanged” for another thousand years for others to “discover” and appreciate.

The Nankoweap Granary, is a row of square like windows, which are carved into the sandstone around AD 1100, (above river mile 52.4 if you are running the river).  The feature is reached by a steep trail 700 feet up from the river.  So, thankfully, they are hard to access.  Ancestral Puebloans hauled their grain, including pumpkin seeds and corn, from the river delta below to these “storage units,” which they created to keep their food dry during floods and protected from rodents.

To read more about granaries above the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, visit  

During this project, I purchased, The Lost World Of The Old Ones, David Roberts, 2015, W.W. Norton and Co.,to read more about the Ancestral Puebloans and Fremont Native Americans and their granaries.

Designing the print:

I searched for images showing the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in different light.  I then sketched an image and outlined the major sections in different bold colors.  Consulting with Plymouth State University art professor and print instructor Kimberly Ritchie, I selected colors of paper for printing- a light blue, sandstone, and a buff color, thinking these would be appropriate colors to shine through.  The light blue was appealing as a background for the water and sky.  The sandstone (my favorite) and buff best complement the oranges, golds, purples, and reds I selected for the canyon colors.

Executing the print:

With Ritchie’s guidance, I decided to combine all three processes- jig saw, rainbow, and reduction printing.  I needed the most assistance in thinking about the reduction process.

A first step was drawing the scene.  I then cut up the five pieces, the layers and walls of rock, the sky and river- the jigsaw process.  I carved each piece separately. I tried to show the different strata or layers of rock, laid down, one on top of the other, as sediment in ancient seas, and the softer layers, eroding and spilling aprons of sand below.

For inking, I chose and mixed a palette of pastel, warm colors for each of the five separate pieces, to show the canyon scene at its most vibrant, when the sun illuminates canyon walls at sunrise or sunset.  

I used the rainbow process to ink up the river, using a lighter color to show the river in the distance and a deeper, richer turquoise for the water in the foreground. In a second printing, I also used the rainbow process on the largest piece of canyon in the foreground to give the rock wall more variation in color and to add interest.

The last stage was to add a dark layer to show the dark windows of the granaries in the canyon wall.  I carved away almost everything on the linoleum, except what I wanted dark- the reduction process. I am most pleased with this effect and wish I would have added still another layer.

The total process took me approximately twelve hours- including developing these artist’s notes.


After giving the print to my daughter before her Grand Canyon trip, she hiked to the granary and took a picture while she was in the Canyon.  This was the first text I received from her when she returned to cell service, “Look momma, just like your print!”


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      admin December 18, 2022

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    rama July 12, 2024

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