Gregory Crampton: U of U Professor Who Conducted Archaeological Research on Glen Canyon

By Seungwon Na

Glen Canyon, located in southeastern Utah and northern Arizona, is now a popular tourist site where millions of people visit each year to enjoy the beautiful scenery and nature: Lake Powell and the tributaries of the Colorado River. However, while tourists relish their excursion to Glen Canyon, they are not fully aware of the efforts that were put by many scholars and researchers to maintain its historical values and beauty. In fact, there is a prominent researcher whose study on Glen Canyon must be recognized: Dr. C. Gregory Crampton.


Dr. C. Gregory Crampton was a prominent researcher who conducted research on Glen Canyon to record its history before the construction of the dam. He died in 1995. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

Before Dr. Crampton joined the history faculty of University of Utah in 1945, he was already a renowned scholar for his study in Latin American countries. The Daily Utah Chronicle described the professor on November 7, 1961, as a member of “Phi Kappa Phi, scholastic honorary, and Phi Alpha Theta, national honorary society in history.” However, it was after moving to the University of Utah when he started to focus on his research in Glen Canyon. Since 1957, Dr. Crampton started to work for the National Park Service. According to a 1961 Daily Utah Chronicle article, as construction of Glen Canyon dam was expected to be completed by 1963, Dr. Crampton had to “salvage archeological, geological, and historical values in the area” before then. However, within the short amount of time, Dr. Crampton succeeded in unveiling Glen Canyon’s historical background and recording its original land formation.

The first task Dr. Crampton had was to identify the missing history of Glen Canyon before A.D 1300. Through careful excavations, he found out that the first dwellers in Glen Canyon were the Anasazi, so called ancient ones. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 1) Dr. Crampton asserted they settled in Glen Canyon around the 10th century A.D. and relied on farming and hunting for their livings. In his 1986 book Ghosts of Glen Canyon, there is a evidence of “prehistoric petroglyphs located near Hite in upper Glen Canyon.” (p.1) After staying temporarily in Glen Canyon, Dr. Crampton presumed Anasazis left the region due to a sustained drought or the appearance of hostile nomads. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 2)

Soon after analyzing the first prehistoric men to land in Glen Canyon, Dr. Crampton moved on to study people who visited Glen Canyon later. He discovered that in 1776, Spaniards Dominguez and Escalante arrived in Glen Canyon. Dr. Crampton claimed they were the first white men to land in Glen Canyon. On the Southern part of the Glen Canyon, Paiute Indians fought to preserve their territory against Navajo Indians. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 3) He also found out that during 1821-1848, Glen Canyon was used as a trade route between New Mexico and California.


Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, was created after the construction of Glen Canyon dam in 1963. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Nevertheless, this was not an end to the discovery of Glen Canyon’s history. His 1986 book Ghosts of Glen Canyon tells us that in May 24, 1869, John Wesley Powell, “an American explorer and civil war veteran,” (p.7) visited the place to complete the missing portion of the map. In September 1883, the Cass Hite’s findings of gold in the region attracted many prospectors and many Mormon explorers and fur trappers visited the place. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 9)

After finishing his research about Glen Canyon, Dr. Crampton published his book Standing up Country: The Canyon Lands of Utah and Arizona in 1964. The reaction from the public was sensational as he was a pioneer to fully investigate the history of Glen Canyon and publish it as a book. The professor was also proud that he “[preserved] the history of the flooded area for future use.” (“Dr. Crampton Reviews”) According to a 1965 Daily Utah Chronicle article, in 1964, the Western Heritage Awards Commitee acknowledged his achievements and awarded him the Outstanding Western Non-fiction Book of the Year.

Dr. Crampton continued his teaching at the University of Utah and visited numerous institutions in the United States to lecture about his findings in Glen Canyon. After tremendously contributing to Utah history, he died in 1995. His students and professional associates described him as a professor with “intellectual acuteness and integrity.” (Peterson, 4) Although Dr. Crampton is not alive, his effort and dedication to inform people about Glen Canyon will be forever remembered and appreciated.

Seungwon Na is a senior at the University of Utah. He is studying communication with an emphasis in journalism.

Primary Sources

 Dr. Crampton to Tell of Glen Canyon,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 27, 1958, 3.

Dr. Crampton to Speak on Glen Canyon History,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 7, 1961, 1.

Dr. Crampton Reviews Chapter of Utah History,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 8, 1961, 1.

Ex History Honorary Chief to Address Ute Students,” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 10, 1962, 3.

Dr. Crampton to Lecture Tuesday,” Daily Utah Chronicle, July 18, 1963, 1.

Canyon Country is the Subject of Beautiful New Illustrated History,” Times Independent, November 5, 1964, 10.

U of U Prof Writes History of 4-Corner ‘Standing Up Country,’” Beaver County News, November 19, 1964, 1.

Professor’s Book Lauded,” Daily Utah Chronicle, May 18, 1965, 5.

Secondary Sources

Crampton, C. Gregory. Standing Up Country: The Canyon Lands of Utah and Arizona. New York: Knopf, 1964.

Crampton, C. Gregory. Ghosts of Glen Canyon: History Beneath Lake Powell. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bonneville Books, 1986.

Peterson, Charles S. “In Memoriam: C. Gregory Crampton, 1911-95,” Utah Historical Quarterly 63, no.4 (Fall 1995): 2-6.