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LIFE AFTER DEAD POOL: Lake Powell's Last Days and the Rebirth of the Colorado River


"A chronicle of both personal and ecological redemption by a gifted writer and observer, as well as a stirring affirmation that, even in a world suffering from terminal burnout, seeds can take root, flowers can blossom, and hope abides."

—KEVIN FEDARKO, The Emerald Mile

Award-winning journalist Zak Podmore brings to life the magnificent terrain and complex politics of the Colorado River, its dying reservoirs, and the natural and cultural histories of Glen Canyon that are reemerging as Lake Powell shrinks to record lows.


After decades of drought, the American West is stretched to the breaking point. 


A changing climate and design flaws in the Glen Canyon Dam have pushed the once-massive Lake Powell reservoir to the brink of collapse—putting millions of people at risk who depend on the Colorado River for water, agriculture, and electricity. Now, as Glen Canyon reemerges, its surprising ecological rebirth reminds us that nature’s capacity to heal may well outpace our own imaginations.


Environmental journalist Zak Podmore explores the complex challenges ahead and reframes the inevitable loss of Lake Powell as a turning point for a more sustainable future. Through an arresting mix of science and storytelling, Life After Dead Pool debunks the notion that the West’s water challenges are unsolvable and invites us to secure a future where the Colorado River once again runs free.

August 2024 | Nonfiction | Hardcover ISBN: 9798890920027 | TP ISBN: 9781948814966

HC: $30.00 | PB: $23.95 | 280 pp 

 “Anyone who cherishes the great wild canyons of the West—Glen Canyon and all the rest—may take solace, and insight, and maybe even hope from this fascinating account of how climate change and drought are forcing a radical reimagining of western water management. The good news, as Zak Podmore reminds us, is that, despite human doltishness, nature abides.”

—DAVID QUAMMEN, New York Times bestselling author of Spillover and The Heartbeat of the Wild

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ZAK PODMORE is an award-winning author and journalist who has spent more than a decade writing about water and conservation issues in the western United States. He is the author of Confluence: Navigating the Personal & Political on Rivers of the New West and his work has appeared in Outside, USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, and elsewhere. He lives in Bluff, Utah.


CONFLUENCE: Navigating the Personal & Political on Rivers of the New West

After losing his river-running mother to cancer, author and paddler Zak Podmore disappears into the American West’s iconic canyon country to heal. What he finds is a wilderness infused with personal stories, as well as a landscape strained by political, environmental, and cultural tensions. A trip down the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park leads to a confrontation with US immigration policy. While canoeing down a rare release of water in the Colorado River delta, Podmore questions the economic foundations of Western water management. He reports on uranium tailings near the San Juan River, dam removals on Washington’s Elwha River, and a tourist development in the Grand Canyon. Moving and provocative, Confluence follows in the tradition of Thoreau or Edward Abbey — it takes us into the wild but always has one eye turned back toward the blessings and ills of civilization.


“Zak Podmore has written a book of promise: a promise that beauty matters; a promise that history lives through us; a promise that the Colorado River teaches us about life and death and the depth of both.”



Life After Dead Pool teases apart complicated issues at the Glen Canyon Dam: water management, Indigenous rights, and political, economic, and ecological concerns, all in the context of history and culture. With captivating storytelling, lively characters, and in-depth research, Podmore engages with these questions, offering surprising conclusions, a refreshing approach, and solutions outside of a traditional binary.”



“An inveterate explorer of the American Southwest, Podmore has crafted an intimate look at the dramatic changes unfolding in the canyons of Lake Powell, and in doing so, he engagingly challenges most of the historical and contemporary wisdom of Southwestern water policy. None of the prominent stakeholders escape scrutiny. But Podmore is no simple critic. He outlines several exciting future policy paths with realistic optimism.”

—MARK UDALL, former U.S. Senator

“Written in time with Lake Powell’s water level decline, Life After Dead Pool is Zak Podmore’s clear-eyed but hopeful assessment of the potential restoration of Glen Canyon. A captivating vision of regional transformation.”

“At once personal and immaculately reported, Life After Dead Pool sidesteps the nostalgia and cliches of writing about ‘Lake Foul,’ giving us the joys of the place along with the grumbles. As long-buried canyons emerge and flower with native plants, Zak Podmore offers a plan that is both visionary and practical on how the Colorado River can, once again, redeem the region.”

—DAVID GESSNER, All the Wild that Remains and A Traveler’s Guide to the End of the World 


“While water may be one of the West’s most intractable issues, intrepid journalist Zak Podmore offers us a hopeful and practical solution, shared from the seat of his kayak on a years-long journey through a dying reservoir. Around every bend is more proof of a new paradigm as Podmore interviews a host of experts, shares a fascinating history and bears witness to a robust natural ecosystem that is miraculously emerging from the depths of what was considered one of the worst environmental crimes of the twentieth century.”

—ANNETTE MCGIVNEY, Pure Land and Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West


“In Life After Dead Pool, Zak Podmore gives a detailed and compelling account of the origins of the Indigenous peoples in what would come to be known as the Colorado River Basin—and guides us through the present-day social and political terrain of a rapidly dwindling Lake Powell. By taking us deep into lost and reemerging landscapes of Glen Canyon, Podmore deepens our understanding and calls us to action to protect the greatest resource we have in the desert—water”
—CALVIN CROSBY, The King’s English Bookshop

“An invaluable chapter in the history book of the Colorado River, Zak’s ability to cut through the lithifying layers of water policy, transnational politics, and climate change science resonates on every page. If you thought Cadillac Desert was a Cassandra of its time, you will love this book as he maps out a very real path forward for the Colorado River ecosystem in Glen Canyon in this thoroughly researched journal of his time in God’s Navel. This journey is both personal and ecosystem sized and you can’t help but wish you were with Zak for those campfire conversations as he and his merry band of latter day save-the-place provocateurs go deep into the wilderness of the Colorado Plateau - and their own minds.”
—DAVID EVERITT, Back of Beyond Books


““Beautifully written and thoughtfully organized, Life After Dead Pool is a must-read for anyone who has even briefly reflected on what Glen Canyon was before the dam was built, what it is now, and what it could be in the future.”
—ERIKA M. BSUMEK, The Foundations of Glen Canyon Dam

“Zak Podmore explores a future without Glen Canyon Dam through the lens of a journalist and the soul of an adventurer. The future of water management in the West starts with asking tough questions, and Podmore investigates the issue’s centerpiece.”

—MORGAN SJOGREN, Path of Light

“An invaluable chapter in the history book of the Colorado River, Zak’s ability to cut through the lithifying layers of water policy, transnational politics, and climate change science resonates on every page.”

—DAVID EVERITT, Back of Beyond Books owner

“In a world fraying at the seams, Podmore studies a colossal human mistake and finds reasons for hope.”

—PHILIP CONNORS, A Song for the River


“In balancing the thrill of a canyon’s resurrection with the challenge of managing a dwindling river, Podmore leaves us in the best place possible in a fraught world. Fully informed, welcomed into an engaged community of researchers, and sitting in a circle in the Cathedral in the Desert, singing.”
—STEPHEN TRIMBLE, Red Rock Stories and The Capitol Reef Reader

​​​“Podmore’s viewpoint on the current condition of the Colorado River Basin is one only gained through years of watching the Basin change with his own eyes—it is a gift for him to share his perspective with the rest of us.”

—EVAN SCHERTZ, Maria’s Bookshop owner

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