More proof

I worked on engineering projects in and around Lake Powell, a well-known recreation site that attracted (pre-COVID) over two million visitors per year.

I should caveat my answers by saying that I'm no longer employed by the National Park Service and my answers reflect my personal views and experiences, not the official positions of NPS.

[EDIT: since some people have been commenting on it, here's some more pics from yours truly!]

Comments: 444 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

SpreadItLikeTheHerp158 karma

What are your thoughts on the movement to undam the river and return Glen Canyon to its more natural state?

Roughneck16206 karma

People have been talking about it for a while, but I don't think it's realistic.

Some action does need to be taken though: too many people rely on the Colorado River and there isn't enough water to go around. Less so everyday.

LoKout8816 karma

Could you expound on why returning Glen Canyon to its natural state is not realistic?

Ascenser57 karma

Probably because too many people rely on it — both as an aquifer and for generating clean electricity. Removing the Glen canyon dam is just not going to happen.

Roughneck1650 karma

Very true. It would ruin the local economy.

Obi_Kwiet10 karma

Would it? Tourism to Southern Utah and AZ is exploding. Hard to imagine that even without the lake, there wouldn't still be growth due to the number of hikers, campers and river recreation enthusiasts.

Roughneck1618 karma

The boaters bring revenue. Lots of it.

dali-llama-15 karma

This is truly a place where there doesn't need to be a local economy. There wasn't one prior to 1965.

Roughneck1632 karma

Tell that to the people living there now.

bookworthy144 karma

What was the biggest threat that you had to deal with? My guess was the sheer stupidity of people. I was reading recently about inexperienced hikers being a real danger to themselves/others.

Roughneck16460 karma

The top ones:

(1) Getting Chinese tourists to use the toilet properly. They're used to using holes in the ground, and we squat on top of our toilets and break the seats. Some of them would even poop on the floor in the bathroom and just put toilet paper on it (we nicknamed that the "turd sandwich.")

(2) Vandalism. Stupid people love carving their initials into our rocks. We constantly brainstormed ideas for getting them to stop, but nothing ever worked. Some people are just disrespectful idiots.

(3) Safety. Unbeknownst to many, Lake Powell averages about four or five fatalities a year. Most of the deaths involve alcohol and swimming. There's also suicides. Every year, at least one person jumps to their death at Horseshoe Bend. We had a tacit agreement with the local media not to report on any suicides so as not to encourage copycats.

(4) Expanding the facilities to meet a rise in tourism. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Page (pop. 7k) explodes. When I left, there were three new hotels under construction (in addition to the half dozen or so already there.)

(5) Quagga Mussels. They're an invasive species and they're struggling to contain them.

keepcrazy49 karma

Page is rad and I can’t believe there aren’t at least twice as many accidental deaths at horseshoe bend!!

Roughneck1664 karma

We only had one accidental death at HSB while I was there. It was part of our motivation to install guardrails at the new trail.

4fingertakedown18 karma

Hey my Buddy is a robotics engineer working on some awesome underwater robot ‘crabs’. They clean mussels off the insides of pipes. Idk the details but sounds super cool.

Why don’t you work there anymore?

Roughneck1615 karma

As I've stated elsewhere in the thread, I had some personal/familial issues that prompted me to relocate. I still have a condo in Page, though.

keepcrazy-31 karma

Dude, one is an acceptable loss as opposed to installing awful fences around everything!!!

Roughneck166 karma

Username checks out.

NoDownsideToOutside41 karma

I just read The Death and Life of The Great Lakes and those Quagga mussels are very scary. I couldn’t imagine the destruction it would cause to Lake Powell if they spread.

The book also mentioned Lake Powell doesn’t fuck around. Even being in unbeknownst possession of a dead one can land you jail time iirc.

Humans suck at taking care of fresh water.

Roughneck1628 karma

They don't want those little mussels spreading around.

Klai826 karma

I noticed that they had Asian style ground hole toilets from my most recent visit to Lake Tahoe

Roughneck1634 karma

Oh really? We discussed the possibility of installing those in our comfort stations (NPS lingo for bathrooms!)

DalinarOfRoshar12 karma

I’m surprised quagga muscles are so low in your list.

Roughneck1627 karma

They’re something of a fait accompli at this point 😕

DesertTripper11 karma

Yeah, they're such a feature of the water system now that CA a few years ago started charging a "mussel tax" on non-marine boat registrations that is about $8 a year. Not sure what they plan to do with that revenue (from everything I've read to date the mussels are virtually impossible to control); methinks it is just another excuse to levy a new tax.

Roughneck1614 karma

Haha, welcome to California 💵

PredatorPopeIII2 karma

I just went there a couple days ago. With all due respect, why is the amount of Asian tourists so large compared to the other races? Just curious.

Roughneck169 karma

They come en masse.

Chinese tourists don’t come alone. They come in massive tour groups and show up via tour bus.

loudcity91879 karma

Any good Glen/Grand Canyon jokes?

Roughneck1665 karma

Not really. No good ones.

RollinTHICpastry229 karma


Roughneck16100 karma

slow clap

ChortleTurtle63 karma

How are lines of communication like with other national parks? Do you guys share information/knowledge or are you guys quite independent across different parks?

Roughneck16117 karma

Definitely. I chatted with my counterpart at the Grand Canyon every now and then. There are only 75 engineers in NPS nationwide (most parks don't have one) and many of us know each other. We kept in close communication with the maintenance division at Arches National Park. They had to deal with many of the same problems we did, so discussing solutions and bouncing off ideas was always useful.

ChortleTurtle39 karma

Thanks for the response and ama, really interesting. As a follow up, 75 engineers across NPS seems like an extremely low number to me, especially based on how diverse your responsibilities can be (based on someone else's question).

How are projects in parks without engineers handled? And how do projects for a park become tasked or prioritized, especially during busier seasons?

Roughneck1645 karma

In contrast, my current agency, USACE, employs about 5500 civil engineers.

How are projects in parks without engineers handled?

For most parks, there isn't enough infrastructure in place to merit a civil engineer and regular maintenance crews can take care of it.

And how do projects for a park become tasked or prioritized, especially during busier seasons?

It's a complicated process and it often gets politicized. Funding is limited, so the park superintendent and maintenance chief have to decide what's the most important.

ChortleTurtle8 karma

With your team being stretched thin, have you ever found yourself leading projects you didn't feel prepared for? The idea of designing infrastructure that is built to endure that many people, work with uncontrollable natural formations, not impact local wildlife, etc. sounds like quite a challenge for engineers inexperienced in this field.

Roughneck1620 karma

Fortunately, the park has guidelines and I never had to go in alone as a designer. We would hire landscape architect firms to help us with the actual design. My job was mostly ensuring that the design met our needs.

bobatsfight61 karma

What kind of engineering projects are typically done for the park system? Is it regular maintenance or longer term features?

Roughneck1689 karma


Regular maintenance revolved around things like our sewage system, power supply, etc. It could be stressful in summer seasons when the whole city explodes with tourists.

One major project was the new trail to Horseshoe Bend. Vox made a video about it. In fact, Maschelle was my boss at the time.

haiphee7 karma

I'm probably too late to this, but what kind of engineer are you? I've been considering applying to work for the park service but it seems you need to be a civil engineer who can do everything.

Roughneck1612 karma

Yes, I'm civil. I don't think NPS hires any other type of engineer.

You can peep my credentials on LinkedIn to get an idea.

JustifytheMean10 karma

Bro you got 3 masters degrees.....get that Phd and so you get the title.

BeerInMyButt3 karma

yeah I am gonna advise against entering a doctorate unless you're really's not just like "master's plus"

Roughneck163 karma

Unless you want to be a professor or do research, a PhD makes no sense for an engineer. I’m honestly unsure if anything beyond my BS is actually helping me.

he_who_melts_the_rod4 karma

You survived "lost in the woods" that ought to be plenty. Never heard anyone claim to like it there.

Roughneck163 karma

Yeah, FLW was awful. At least I was there in the winter/spring.

WSMR was a paradise for me. I miss that place.

Separate-Ad719245 karma

What were the everyday tasks/ things you did while working on a normal day?

Roughneck1652 karma

It varied. If we had a project that needed attention on the other side of the park, sometimes I'd have to take a plane to reach it.

I spent quite a bit of time monitoring the construction progress on the Horseshoe Bend Trail. That was a sight to behold. I also had to check out old facilities and look for construction deficiencies (concrete cracking, gabion walls collapsing, etc.)

RodneysBrewin20 karma

Did you ever get to fly, or just a passenger on the plane? This job looks like a blast.

Roughneck16105 karma

I'm not a licensed pilot, so I just got to ride.

The aerial shots I got from those rides are stunning, but there isn't enough Dramamine to make me not hate flying.

cspruce895 karma

What is the lighter stone that is closer to the water level?

Roughneck163 karma

I don’t know. I’m not a geologist.

PonyPinatas37 karma

How do you recommend defending the surrounding area from asteroid penetration into the Glen Canyon cave system and impending alien invasion?

Roughneck1644 karma

Guns. I have a mini arsenal in my basement.

TobiasQ27 karma

Do you like the film Evolution (2001)? Is it accurate geophysically?

Roughneck1613 karma

Never saw it.

bobatsfight20 karma

You seem pretty young. What made you a former park engineer? Better job opportunities elsewhere?

Roughneck1662 karma

I became park engineer at age 31. I was the youngest person in our maintenance division, earning me the nickname “junior.” I absolutely loved the park and the location (I still own a condo in Page.) I do miss it!

After a year, I ended up leaving to take a job back East. It was for a combination of personal and professional issues that I won’t get into.

I’m currently working for USACE as a structural engineer.

Hamilton950B19 karma

This is so cool. I'm heading to Glen Canyon Dam in about three weeks. I assume there is a whole separate set of engineers who maintain the dam?

As an electrical engineer I love large generating stations although I have nothing to do with them professionally. Do you have any tips for things I should see when I visit?

Roughneck1627 karma

It's all managed by the US Bureau of Reclamation.

NPS coordinates with them, but the dam is USBR's baby.

As for visiting, it depends what you like. Don't miss this site.

Also, there's Buckskin Gulch. I bit off the beaten path, but worth it.

greencymbeline4 karma

Those small canyons remind me of the one where the guy cut his own arm off...

Roughneck1617 karma

Aron Ralston? That was at Canyonlands.

greencymbeline2 karma

Yes that’s him. I think there was even a movie it about it.

Roughneck162 karma

There was!

Timsruz19 karma

Was there ever talk among the mucky mucks that one day the reservoir would be drained and the dam decommissioned?

Roughneck1612 karma

Not that I can recall.

ka0s_15 karma

Do you still maintain that website for all your pictures?

Roughneck1615 karma

What’re you talking about?

ka0s_18 karma

In high school, you would constantly take pictures.. I don't remember if it was a xanga, or live journal, or exactly what you used, but you maintained an archive of the pictures you took. Is this still something you do? You were quite the shutter bug.

Roughneck1629 karma

Ah yes, that’s true.

For some context: this was the era before social media when space to share photos was scarce. I had a personal website (Angelfire? Geocities?) where I’d display pics of friends. Digital cameras were also rare back then, and I was the cool kid with my 4MP Fujifilm camera.

ka0s_15 karma

Yea I think I got the same one from the BX, but cracked the screen during the French trip to st. Michelle. Angelfire/geocities was long dead by our SR yr. I do remember the site had a black bg, and generally a wall of (red) text to the multitude of links to your pictures. But, my last memory of this was in Mr. Hassenbeuler's class, it was probably a study hall after lunché.

Roughneck1631 karma

So random when someone from high school recognizes me on Reddit. We graduated in ‘04!

I remember that website, but it quickly died after the rise of FB and then IG.

ka0s_15 karma

Lol yea man. You and I could not have been more different! But I always liked and respected you. But, I too at that time was interested in photography (Mr. Goode definitely had me explain photoshop better than he could). But I've always been glad, especially recently to see how your life has turned out. I think because of our last names both starting with KO you were right ahead of me during graduation. Even now, I catch you submitting to ALOT of the subs I follow (the history stuff) it's funny how alike we really turned out!

Roughneck1615 karma

The military changed us, that’s for sure!

I’m not even close to the same person I was in high school. Last time you saw me in person I looked like this.

As I’m typing this, I’m out pushing my daughter in the stroller.

abusivecommentator14 karma

Do trees need regular servicing or do you just get a new model when the old one has done x amount of miles?

Roughneck1640 karma

Unsure what you mean by "trees".

The local landscape looks like this.

Just-Go-With-My-Flo14 karma

What is something you wish people knew or would do before visiting the park?

Roughneck1628 karma

Have a plan to manage your trash. Don't litter. Anywhere.

Bring water during the summer.

Be considerate about where you park.

Call in advance if you're unsure about something being open.

Keri281613 karma

Is the area handicap accessible ?

Roughneck1620 karma

The new HSB trail is!

Keri281611 karma

Thanks for the quick response! I wasn’t sure if you’d still be answering questions

Roughneck1615 karma

My wife is at work at the hospital and I'm monitoring our toddler who has to be fed every 3 hours. I'll be up til at least midnight.

Keri28164 karma

I’m thankful to your wife and her profession. I was just in the hospital but I’m ok now.

Roughneck1618 karma

My wife is a rockstar: she works 12-hour nightshifts as a nurse, takes care of our daughter, teaches Sunday school to kids at our church, and just finished the degree requirements to become a nurse practitioner.

fartsniffer8712 karma

So I mean you no animosity, I know you’re human and rely on this place along with thousands of other people, but I am vehemently against the dam and believe in returning the Colorado River to its original state without dams. Do you see a middle ground along the Colorado River within the American West? What amount of dams can we justify knowing the ecological impacts of dams in the area? Can we justify the Glen Canyon Dam knowing how much water evaporates and seeps from Lake Powell every year while areas that rely upon the Colorado River are constantly in water shortages? If the cities and people that rely upon the nearby dams were provided a cleaner and more environmentally friendly energy source, what are your thoughts on the dam’s removal? Also, just curious, what are your thoughts on Edward Abbey? I know that loads of people within the NPS find Abbey inspirational despite the fact that Abbey would probably not find their roles attractive. Thank you!

Roughneck1621 karma

Let me level with you: my job is to crunch numbers, design things, inspect things, and ensure that they work. The social and ecological implications are all outside my purview. I agree in principle that we should be wiser in dealing with our water resources.

And I had to Google Edward Abbey.

Interestingly, Lake Powell isn't the most controversial project I've participated in as an engineer. Click here.

AltMiddle3 karma

You can buy Abbey's books at the NPS bookstore at the top of the dam. BTW, how's the town of Page holding up with no houseboat renters? Sounds pretty dire.

Roughneck166 karma

I have not ventured back to Page, but I imagine they've seen better days.

That town abuts the Navajo Nation, and they were hard hit by the pandemic.

Roughneck1618 karma

So I mean you no animosity,

I appreciate the diplomacy, fartsniffer87.

DesertTripper11 karma

As a park engineer, are your projects primarily civil (such as construction of buildings and public access infrastructure, etc.) or do you design water/sewer systems and the like as well?

How many levels of bureaucracy do you have to traverse to be assured that your proposed projects don't affect the aesthetics or environment of the park? I imagine they are pretty strict about any changes that involve changing physical appearance of park features.

Roughneck1612 karma

I did projects dealing with structures and sewage systems.

And yes, projects like the HSB Trail required approval from NPS higher-ups, the city of Page, the Navajo Nation, ADEQ, etc. It’s a hustle, but protecting the environment has to be job #1.

tastyskittlesrainbow10 karma

My dream is to work for NPS. Is it possible to move around from park to park based on project cycles?

Roughneck1613 karma

It's easier for some than others. We had a couple who had moved from Yosemite to Glen Canyon. They were WG workers I believe.

tastyskittlesrainbow3 karma

I'm currently working for the state and trying to find my way in to either city or regional parks before trying for NPS. Any tips on applying? I work in construction management.

Roughneck167 karma

Log on to and make a profile.

Set up an automatic search and have it email you any matches.

beckoning_cat9 karma

How bad is the bathtub ring in Powell? Sorry you no longer work at NPS. That was my dream job and it is in dd's anely difficult to get in.

Roughneck1617 karma

Low water levels have been an issue for a while. I've haven't been back since this latest drought, but I imagine the situation has gotten worse. I still follow them on IG.

dec7td9 karma

There are a lot of complaints in the media that the park service was too slow to respond to dropping water levels. They have recently closed down the lake to one of its biggest sources of income, houseboat rentals, due to the now-inaccessable ramps. Do you feel like the complaints are justified?

Roughneck1639 karma

There are a lot of complaints in the media that the park service was too slow to respond to dropping water levels.

What're they supposed to do? Make it rain more?

I find that criticism to be silly.

TheHairyHeathen8 karma

Whats the weirdest thing you've seen?

Roughneck166 karma

I’m general or at Glen Canyon?

TheHairyHeathen3 karma

Canyon wise, but feel free to share anything else.

Roughneck1623 karma

Asian tourists are terrified of getting a tan. Pale skin is considered ideal in their culture, so they'll wear long-brimmed hats, long sleeves, veils, etc to avoid direct contact with the Arizona desert! Heck, I even saw one guy wearing a hooded raincoat in July at Horseshoe Bend. So ridiculous.

Ordinary_Fella7 karma

I've just started my job with the department of the interior, specifically the BLM. It's only seasonal, but I've been told they are trying to create a term position for me. I want to build the rest of my career with the department, but I'm worried about what's going to happen when my appointment ends. Is there any advice you can offer to someone that wants to use this opportunity as a foot in the door to continue serving public lands?

Roughneck166 karma

Keep applying for positions on USAJOBS. See if you can find a permanent one.

Slooooooooooooooooth7 karma

Can you recall the most rewarding moment while working that position?

Roughneck1616 karma

While waiting in line at Walmart, I overheard some older Spanish tourists chatting behind me and turned around to say hello (I learned Spanish as a missionary in South America.) I then showed them how to use the self-checkout machines. That was neat.

But my most rewarding moment was after I left and finding out that the trail was complete from a friend's IG.

squrr15 karma

What major problems would occur if in the next few winters the lake managed to somehow fill all the way up, to 100% or more?

(I'm choosing to be an extreme optimist)

Roughneck165 karma

That would be awesome, but highly improbably. One bad thing is the lake could encroach on Lone Rock Beach.

chronoboy19855 karma

What’s your stance on state and federal governments seizing national park lands for business purposes endeavors like oil pipe lines?

Roughneck164 karma

Can you give me a specific case?

chronoboy19857 karma

The one off the top of my head was the national monuments in Utah that Trump wanted to drill into.

Roughneck1612 karma

I like to side with conservation groups.

GhostOfSkeletor5 karma

Have you ever seen anything interesting in the sky, like a UFO/UAP?

Roughneck1611 karma

I haven’t. We do have some “dark skies” areas near Page where you can gaze up at the Milk Way at night.

TapWaterKid5 karma

What happens if someone goes to The Wave without a permit?

Roughneck1611 karma

Good question. BLM owns The Wave I believe.

You can call and ask them:

raincloudparade5 karma

How come the path from the parking area to the horseshoe bend overlook goes over the incline/ hill instead of on the flat land around around it?

Roughneck166 karma

The new trail was specifically designed to reduce the incline.

jmoyles5 karma

Hey - could you straighten that bend? Really gets in the way.

Roughneck166 karma

I took an engineering geology class in college and learned by rivers flow the way they do and change shape over time. It's fascinating.

devlspawn4 karma

Did you work on any projects at lone rock beach? (my favorite place in the world btw). If so a few questions I have.

  • Why did they change the outhouses from flushing back to static holes in the ground again?
  • Why did they reduce to almost zero the patrols to enforce beach rules (generators after 10, disruptions by drunks, etc)? Do they not make enough from fees collected?
  • How do you feel about the gravel brought in to help make roads so that idiots don't get stuck as often? My personal feeling is I feel the added rock ruined the perfect smooth sand of the beach and it was better when people had to fend for themselves.

Roughneck163 karma

Did you work on any projects at lone rock beach?

Not that I can recall.

Why did they change the outhouses from flushing back to static holes in the ground again?

I never knew we had flushing toilets.

Why did they reduce to almost zero the patrols to enforce beach rules (generators after 10, disruptions by drunks, etc)? Do they not make enough from fees collected?

Law enforcement was all over Lone Rock Beach when I was there.

How do you feel about the gravel brought in to help make roads so that idiots don't get stuck as often? My personal feeling is I feel the added rock ruined the perfect smooth sand of the beach and it was better when people had to fend for themselves.

I honestly don't remember that. Didn't happen while I was there.

doughster3 karma

What’s your favorite place to visit in the Lake Powell area (without a boat)? I’ll be passing thru tomorrow.

Roughneck1610 karma

Obviously there’s:

  • Horseshoe Bend
  • Glen Canyon Dam Visitors Center (owned by USBR)
  • Antelope Canyon (owned by the Navajo Nation)
  • Lone Rock Beach

Which direction will you be heading? That whole region is a treasure chest of natural wonders!

driverofracecars3 karma

What does a park engineer do?

Roughneck163 karma

All kinds of construction and maintenance projects.

The new trail to Horseshoe Bend was the biggest one.

18randomcharacters3 karma


Roughneck163 karma

Nope. It's my first time seeing this site.

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craiger_1235 karma

Looks good enough for me

Roughneck164 karma

Someone from my high school (DoDEA school in Germany) has already recognized me on here.

MyKneesAreOdd3 karma

What does a park engineer do? I can't imagine there is much to do outside of fixing fences and lights?

Roughneck163 karma

Both maintenance and construction projects. A park this big requires all kinds of infrastructure.

spartan174562 karma

Are you a civil engineer by trade? If so, how did you get into this position?

Roughneck164 karma

Yes! I have a BS in civil engineering from Brigham Young University and a masters degree from Norwich University. I’m also a licensed Professional Engineer in Arizona.

I served as an engineering officer in the Army before applying for this job on

OnceMoreUntoDaBreach2 karma

How did you find a job like this? What was your degrees in, if any? Assuming an engineering degree, but this really piques my interest.

Roughneck163 karma

All federal civil service jobs are on the same site:, which makes it super convenient for applicants.

I have a BS in civil engineering from Brigham Young University, an MS in engineering management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and an ME in structural engineering from Norwich University. That first one was all I needed for this job, though.

blue_bison932 karma

How did you end up working as an engineer for NPS? My husband is a civil engineer (specialized in hydrology!) , leaving active duty and I think this would be his dream job

Also what did you find most rewarding about working for the NPS?

Roughneck163 karma

Nice. I was active duty Army 2011-2016. He should look for jobs on, that's where he can find openings for NPS as well as BLM, USBR, USACE, etc. Civil service is ideal for veterans as he'll have the option of buying back his active duty time and have it count towards his civilian retirement.

Working for NPS was awesome as I loved the park and the surrounding area. However, USACE proved to be better for me in terms of career advancement and opportunities.


Anyways, if your husband wants tips on his transition there's this article I wrote a while back.

Padgetts-Profile2 karma

Is there anything that can be done to preserve the Lower Antelope Canyon, or is it just going to become a graffiti covered, piss soaked wasteland?

My gf and I paddle boarded to the canyon this summer and it was pretty sad in some spots. We used handfuls of sand to wipe graffiti from the sandstone until our hands were raw. The smell of urine was so strong in some areas that in made your eyes water.

Roughneck165 karma

Stuff like that fills me with rage, but beyond installing cameras or having a park ranger stationed there, there’s nothing we can do. Some people are just idiots.

the_ranting_swede2 karma

What are some lesser-known impacts/benefits of the plummeting water level at Lake Powell over the last couple decades?

Roughneck163 karma

Water rights. It’s already a hot-button issue in places where water is scarce. Also, land development. Places like St George are growing and there may not be enough water to sustain them.

thousandshipz2 karma

What did you think of the recent Elizabeth Kolbert New Yorker article about Glen Canyon?

Roughneck162 karma


keepyoureyespeeled1 karma

When is the best time to visit for people who want to avoid the crowds? We don't mind if it's a bit off season. Thanks!

Roughneck162 karma

Winter or early Spring. The whole city goes quiet when school is in.

mordecai980 karma

Is the bend really shaped like a horseshoe?

Roughneck163 karma


ShyneBox-4 karma

Why did they ruin horseshoe with railings?

Roughneck1623 karma

To make it safer. And to have a developed lookout point so people wouldn’t wander off as much and destroy the red rocks.

AJfriedRICE6 karma

I was just there a few months ago and remember there being just as many areas without railings

Roughneck164 karma

True, but we wanted them concentrated in one spot.