Lake Powell

Overview

Introduction

Formed by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, Lake Powell begins in north-central Arizona and extends northeast into Utah. It and some surrounding areas make up the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, one of the prime houseboating destinations in the U.S. The waters are also popular for bass fishing, waterskiing, sailing, scuba diving, Jet-Skiing and sailboarding. Activities aside, the lake is a visual wonder—blue waters wind between steep canyon walls that glow red in the sunlight.

Lake Powell is responsible for submerging Glen Canyon, one of the stunning landscapes carved by the Colorado River. (Its beauty was frequently compared with that of the Grand Canyon.) The Glen Canyon Dam—near Page, Arizona—is impressive: Stop by the Carl Hayden Visitor Center to see exhibits on the dam. Guided tours take place in the summer, and self-guided tours can be taken year-round. Also in Page is the John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum, which focuses on the great explorer and scientist who led an expedition down the Colorado and through the Grand Canyon in 1869. Lake Powell is named in his honor.

There are more than 1,900 mi/3,000 km of shoreline to explore on the lake, both on its main channel and in dozens of connecting canyons. One of the highlights of the region is Rainbow Bridge National Monument (in Utah), a huge arc of stone spanning a stream with Navajo Mountain looming as a backdrop. The bridge has spiritual significance to the Navajo (on whose reservation it is located), and you'll probably feel a little reverence of your own when you see it. By far the best way to reach Rainbow Bridge is by water: There are no roads, and if you take the hiking trail, you're in for a strenuous 13-mi/20-km march. Those who aren't piloting their own craft can take a boat tour from Halls Crossing or Bullfrog Marinas (in Utah) or the Wahweap Marina (in Arizona).

The marinas at Halls Crossing, Bullfrog, Wahweap and Hite (Utah) are also where you rent boats, which range from luxurious, air-conditioned houseboats with kitchens and bedrooms to smaller powerboats that are good for day trips or overnight camping excursions. (The speedy powerboats can cover 100 mi/160 km of water in a day and still leave you time for exploring.) A few words of advice before you cast off: Know how far your craft can go on a tank of gas, and know where the refueling points are; take the price of gas into account when planning your trip—the fuel bill can easily equal the rental fee; and watch out for sudden storms and take cover in protected coves when necessary—we had the unsettling experience of bouncing over large whitecaps when a squall blew in unexpectedly.

If you don't have a houseboat and aren't into backcountry camping, accommodations can be found at the marinas: Bullfrog and Wahweap both have a lodge and campground, and Halls Crossing has a campground with water and restrooms. Hite has a primitive camping area. 280 mi/450 km north of Phoenix.

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