Lake Powell & Glen Canyon Recreation Area

Written by on February 22, 2015 in AZ Outdoor Adventures, UT Outdoor Adventures - Comments Off on Lake Powell & Glen Canyon Recreation Area

The sparkling blue waters of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon reflect the azure blue skies of the American Southwest, and provide a vivid contrast to the soaring red-rock cliffs that rise above it. In 1956, from his desk in the White House, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, pushed a button that set off the first blast that started the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Construction of the dam took 10 years (and another 18 years for the lake to fill completely) and blocked the flow of the Colorado and San Juan rivers, creating a 186-mile long reservoir. Today, the dam generates power for several major cities, and the reservoir provides water for almost every Western state. It is also an extremely popular tourist destination.

The major draw of Lake Powell is, of course, water sports — boating, fishing, skiing, swimming and more! Visitors can put in at marinas located in Page, Wahweap, Bullfrog, Hall’s Crossing and Hite, and boats are available for rent in these locations as well. Dozens of narrow canyons offer quiet mooring spots to picnic and explore. Many of these narrow slot canyons are amazing places to hike, however, during Monsoon Season, storms far upstream can cause flash flooding, so check the weather before you set off.

Encompassing over 1.2 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area stretches for hundreds of miles from Lee’s Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah. Most of the backcountry (the lake comprises only 13% of the total recreation area) is still as vast and remote as it was before the dam. There are plenty of opportunities to hike and backpack in this wonderful wilderness.

There are numerous well-developed campground areas surrounding the lake, however, you can camp anywhere along the shores except near marina areas. Just remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints! Lodging is also available inside Glen Canyon Recreation Area at Wahweap and Bullfrog, as well as in nearby Page, Arizona.

A Lost History

Once upon a time, Glen Canyon was a deep natural gorge through which the Colorado and San Juan rivers freely ran. The Navajo people lived, laughed and loved along these long stretches of river for hundreds of years. The Native Americans believed that two Navajo spirits, embodied in the rivers, met to create water children of the rain and cloud people. Rainbow Bridge National Monument, which is nearby, is believed to be the male and female spirits who create clouds and rainbows. Besides these two sacred sites, hundreds of archeological sites (pit houses, pueblo dwellings and more) were buried by the crystal blue waters, including the footprints of dinosaurs created millions of years ago along what was once the edge of an inland sea.

The creation of the dam and Lake Powell also radically changed the environment of the area. For instance, such a large body of water drew migrating water fowl, who previously passed the area by. Native fish, adapted to the warmer muddier waters of the two rivers, do not thrive in the cooler and deeper waters of Lake Powell and are struggling for survival. However, sport fish stocked by the Fish & Game are thriving in this environment. Several rare and federally listed plant and animal species are found Glen Canyon: Jones cycladenia, alcove primrose, southwestern willow flycatchers, the northern leopard frog, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and the razorback sucker. Some nonnative species are successful at spreading and invading an area, disrupting its ecology by outcompeting native species, disrupting food chains, and changing nutrient cycles. Roughly 11% of the plants currently in the recreation area are invasive species and the fight to contain these damaging plants (and animals) continues.

It is important to appreciate the remaining wonders of geology here, and learn about the different people who once lived and traveled here. Take time to be in awe of the enormous silence and solitude in the backcountry and appreciate the sacrifice that was made to bring Lake Powell into being.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
PO Box 1507
Page, Arizona 86040
Phone: (928) 608-6200

About the Author

Comments are closed.

Get Adobe Flash player