Today, and throughout American history, wilderness has meant many different things to many different people. A place of refuge and renewal, a place of malevolent spirits and forces, a pristine ecological community, a source of material well-being, a wellspring of national and personal identity – wilderness was, and continues to be, all of these things. This two-term seminar and off-campus study program will explore these ideas and many more, as we ponder the significance of wild country in the American experience. 

The program will involve all of your senses. We will read deeply into the field of wilderness studies. We will discuss the issues and questions that animate these studies in a lively and open-ended format. We will engage in independent research projects that will contribute to the vitality of the seminar and that will be presented to the Carleton community at the conclusion of our journey. And, we will experience wilderness and think hard about that experience in one of the most remarkable corners of the Earth, the Grand Canyon.

Program highlights include:

  • Exploring the natural and human history of the Grand Canyon, a World Heritage Site and one of America’s iconic National Parks.
  • Learning about and deeply considering many of the issues that Grand Canyon National Park is currently wrestling with, including local and regional development threats, conservation issues, water and wildlife management, climate change adaptation strategies, and relations with nearby Native American peoples.
  • Discussing issues with officials from the National Park Service, Xanterra Parks and Resorts (the largest concessionaire in the park), the Grand Canyon Trust (a leading conservation NGO focused on the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau), as well as Native American peoples, scholars, politicians, artists, and other local experts.
  • Conducting research at the Grand Canyon National Park Research Library, the Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection, and other resources located in the park.
  • Hiking along the rim and down to the Colorado River; attending ranger talks; staying in a lodge on the South Rim; camping in the inner gorge; experiencing wilderness.