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'Grand Dame Of The West' Katie Lee Dies At 98

Katie Lee
Courtesy of Katie Lee
Katie Lee loved hiking Glen Canyon and was devastated when the dam flooded it.

Katie Lee was many things -- a folksinger, actress, author and photographer but she’s probably best known as the Goddess of Glen Canyon. Her fondest memories were those in Glen Canyon before the dam. 

“I don’t dream about the canyon,” Lee said in a 2014 interview. “I cannot. I give a little prayer at night. ‘Please let me dream about my canyon.’ Nope. Because I’m thinking about it constantly. I mean there isn’t a day or even an hour that goes by that something doesn’t crash into my head and remind me of a particular spot in the canyon. It’s present constantly.”

Lee grew up in Tucson and moved to Hollywood to become an actress. But in the 1950s, when she took a rafting trip down the Colorado River, she abandoned her acting career for a life of exploring, singing about and fighting fiercely for Glen Canyon and the Colorado River. 

“People say to me, ‘we feel cheated we didn’t get to see what you did,’” Lee said. “And I say, 'well then you’d better get off your ass and start protesting about places that you care about. Because the minute you find a place you really love, sure as s*** something’s going to happen to it if you don’t make effort to protect it.'” 


Lee died Wednesday at her home in Jerome. She was 98.

Known as “the informer” among her siblings, Laurel Morales came by reporting naturally.She’s been a public radio reporter since 1998, cutting tape with a razor blade at KQED’s California Report. She traded in her flip-flops for snow boots to work for Minnesota Public Radio, where she received her first digital recorder. But Morales has spent most of her career in northern Arizona where she’s had the honor to witness a Miss Navajo sheep butchering contest, a Havasupai medicine woman’s ceremony, and a group of blind teens hike the Grand Canyon.She joined KJZZ’s Fronteras Desk in 2011. In 2017, Morales produced a multi-platform project called Earth+Bone about what tribes believe to be sacred and what Westerners consider fair game. She’s won several awards for her work, including a national Edward R. Murrow Award for her continuing coverage of the Yarnell Hill Fire. She earned her master’s in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.