Is the Grand Canyon Trying To Tell Us Something?

Something for Earth Day: Is the Grand Canyon trying to tell us something? It is and I hope we’re wise enough to listen!

As rain in the West is increasingly rare and snowpacks are not replenishing lakes, reservoirs, and aquifers as they once did, I’m increasingly reminded of a publicity campaign we undertook a few years back. It was in support of a film called Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk that accurately predicted the future, especially for the Colorado River and residents who depend on it as a water source.  

In 2008 we worked with the outstanding filmmakers at MacGillivray Freeman Films on their acclaimed release Grand Canyon Adventure, their first-ever 3D IMAX film which, to date, has grossed an incredible $32 million (Available via MacGillivray Freeman’s Movies for Families). Admittedly, 2008 seems as far in the past as the end of our COVID pandemic does looking forward into the future. Nonetheless, the seriousness of the film’s message is possibly more applicable and important today than it was over a decade ago.

Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk combines eye-dazzling 3D images of the Grand Canyon with heart-pounding river-rafting thrills on the canyon’s legendary Colorado River for a cinematic exploration of the dangers severe droughts pose in the West and the increasing threat of the world losing access to clean, freshwater. Sadly, as seen in the film, even one of the world’s most impressive river systems now rarely empties into the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean.  

Narrated by Oscar-winner Robert Redford and featuring music and songs by the Grammy Award-winning Dave Matthews Band, the film centers on the canyon experiences of noted activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and anthropologist Wade Davis. Together Kennedy and Davis explore the challenges of global warming and past water mismanagement, its negative impact on our access to freshwater, and the opportunities for conserving and restoring our rivers, bays, lakes, and water resources. With headlines like “Lake Powell and Lake Mead May Never Recover” (The Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2021) and “40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It’s Drying Up Fast” (The New York Times, Aug. 27, 2021) it’s scary how revelatory the film was at the time . . . and it was ONLY 13 years ago.

When contributing publicity support to the inaugural release of Grand Canyon Adventure we knew the messages of the film were undeniable (see Case Study HERE). From personal visits, our team has seen first-hand the sad and indelible water lines left behind on the canyon walls as Colorado River waters have receded. At the time of generating publicity coverage for the film, we thought our drought crisis was decades into the future . . . how naïve we were!

The productions of MacGillivray Freeman Films have taken audiences on magic carpet treks around the world via the astounding imagery afforded by the IMAX cinema experience, from engaging and informative travelogues to highly insightful films showcasing the present dangers confronting the natural world. After 50 years of an incredible film legacy, director Gregg MacGillivray and his team have earned a rightful place as cinema’s first billion-dollar box-office documentarians.

Today, Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk stands as an example of how a well-produced motion picture can authentically ring the fire alarms and portend the future. We are proud of our contributions to the success of this outstanding film but disappointed that its insightful warnings were not heeded, and its predictions are sadly coming true.

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