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Lake Powell Houseboats and Hiking

Lake Powell
Lake Powell - Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona in the United States. A popular vacation spot visited by about two million people every year. It is the second largest man-made reservoir by maximum water capacity in the United States behind Lake Mead.

Lake Powell was created by the flooding of Glen Canyon by the Glen Canyon Dam Project, which also led to the creation of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - a popular holiday destination on public land managed by the National Park Service.

The reservoir is named for explorer John Wesley Powell, a one-armed American Civil War veteran who explored the river via three wooden boats in 1869.

It primarily lies in parts of Garfield, Kane, and San Juan counties in southern Utah, with a small portion in Coconino County in northern Arizona.

Lake Powell is a water storage facility for the Upper Basin states of the Colorado River Compact serving Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico.

The Compact specifies that the Upper Basin states must provide a minimum annual flow of 7,500,000 acre feet (9.3 km3) to the Lower Basin states of Arizona, Nevada, and California.

Glen Canyon Dam was built to solve the downstream delivery obligations of the Upper Basin states. Lake Powell is an "aquatic bank" built to fulfill the requirements of the "Compact Calls" of the Lower Basin.

Lake PowellIf the Compact had required the Upper Basin to deliver half the flow of the Colorado in low water years, rather than a fixed amount, the burden of drought would have been spread equally between the basins and there would have been no need to build the dam.

Glen Canyon Dam czme out of a controversial damsite plan the Bureau selected in Echo Park, in what is now Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado.

A small but politically connected group of objectors, led by David Brower of the Sierra Club, succeeded in defeating the Bureau's bid, citing Echo Park's natural and scenic qualities as too valuable tobe submerged.

By agreeing to a relocated damsite near Lee's Ferry between Glen and Grand Canyons, however, Brower did not realize what he had gambled away. At the time, Brower had not actually been to Glen Canyon.

When he later saw Glen Canyon on a river trip, Brower discovered that it had the kind of scenic, cultural, and natural wilderness qualities often associated with America's national parks.

More than eighty side canyons in the colorful Navajo Sandstone contained clear streams, abundant wildlife, arches, natural bridges, and numerous Native American archeological sites.

But by then, it was too late to stop the Bureau and its commissioner Floyd Dominy from building Glen Canyon Dam. Brower believed the river should remain free, and would forever after consider the loss of Glen Canyon his life's major disappointment.

Lake PowellConstruction work on the Glen Canyon Dam began with a demolition explosion initiated by the push of a button by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at his desk in the White House on October 1, 1956.

The purpose of the first blast was to start clearing tunnels for water diversion. On February 11, 1959, water was diverted through the tunnels so dam construction could begin.

Later that year, the bridge was completed, allowing trucks to deliver equipment and materials for the dam, and also for the new town of Page, Arizona.

Concrete placement started around the clock on June 17, 1960. The last bucket of concrete was poured on September 13, 1963.

Over 5 million cubic yards of concrete make up the Glen Canyon Dam. The dam is 710 feet or 216 metres high, with the surface elevation of the water at full pool being approximately 3700 feet or 1100 metres.

Construction of the dam cost $155 million, and 18 lives were lost during the construction process. From 1970 to 1980, turbines and generators were installed for hydroelectricity and on September 22, 1966, Glen Canyon Dam was dedicated by Lady Bird Johnson.

Upon completion of Glen Canyon Dam on September 13, 1963, the Colorado River began to back up, no longer being diverted through the tunnels.

Lake PowellThe newly flooded Glen Canyon formed Lake Powell. Sixteen years elapsed before the lake filled to the 3,700 feet or 1,100 metre level, on June 22, 1980.

The lake level fluctuates considerably depending on the seasonal snow runoff from the Rocky Mountains.

The all-time highest water level was reached on July 14, 1983, during one of the heaviest Colorado River floods in recorded history, in part influenced by a strong El Niño event.

Colorado River flows have been below average since 2000, leading to lower lake levels. In winter 2005, before the spring run-off, the lake reached its lowest level since the initial filling - to an elevation of 3,555.10 feet or 1,083.59 metres above sea level.

This was approximately 150 feet or 46 metres below full pool. Since 2005, the lake level has slowly rebounded, although it has not filled completely since then.

The summer of 2011 saw the third largest June and the second largest July runoff since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam, and the water level peaked at nearly 3,661 feet or 1,116 metres - 77 percent of capacity, on July 30.

However, water years 2012 and 2013 were, respectively, the third and fourth-lowest runoff years recorded on the Colorado River. By April 9, 2014, the lake level had fallen to 3,574.31 feet or 1,089.45 metres, largely erasing the gains made in 2011.

Lake PowellColorado River levels returned to normal during water years 2014 and 2015 (pushing the lake to 3,606 feet or 1,099 metres by the end of water year 2015.

The Bureau of Reclamation in 2014 reduced the Lake Powell release from 8.23 to 7.48 million acre-feet, for the first time since the lake filled in 1980.

This was done to comply with the "equalization" guideline which stipulates that an approximately equal amount of water must be retained in both Lake Powell and Lake Mead, in order to preserve hydro-power generation capacity at both lakes.

This resulted in Lake Mead declining to the lowest level on record since the 1930s. In August 2020 Lake Powell was at an elevation of 3,599.72 feet or 1,097.19 metres which is 100 feet or 30 metres from full pool, and is 48% of full capacity, storing 11.72 million acre-feet of water.

Glen Canyon was carved by differential erosion from the Colorado River over an estimated 5 million year period. The Colorado Plateau, through which the canyon cuts, arose some 11 million years ago.

Within that plateau lie layers of rock from over 300 million years ago to the relatively recent volcanic activity. Pennsylvanian and Permian formations can be seen in Cataract Canyon and San Juan Canyon.

The Moenkopi Formation, which dates from 230 million years ago (Triassic Period), and the Chinle Formation are found at Lees Ferry and the Rincon. Both formations are the result of the ancient inland sea that covered the area.

Lake Powell Once the sea drained, windblown sand invaded the area, creating what is known as Wingate Sandstone.

The more recent (Jurassic Period) formations include Kayenta Sandstone, which produces the trademark blue-black "desert varnish" that streaks down many walls of the canyons.

Above this is Navajo Sandstone. Many of the arches, including Rainbow Bridge, lie at this transition point. This period also includes light yellow Entrada Sandstone, and the dark brown, almost purple Carmel Formation.

These latter two can be seen on the tops of mesas around Wahweap, and the crown of Castle Rock and Tower Butte. Above these layers lie the sandstone, conglomerate and shale of the Straight Cliffs Formation that underlies the Kaiparowits Plateau and San Rafael Swell to the north of Lake Powell.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area draws more than two million visitors annually. Recreational activities include boating, fishing, waterskiing, jet-skiing, and hiking.

While exploring the lake on a houseboat visitors will wander to side coves with Native American petroglyphs still visible on the rock cliffs.

Larger houseboats offer extras like accommodation for up to 16 persons, satellite television and stereos, hot tubs, fireplace and much more.

See what is available in a houseboat rental at www.lakepowell.com/houseboating

Prepared campgrounds can be found at each marina, but many visitors choose to rent a houseboat or bring their own camping equipment, find a secluded area somewhere in the canyons, and make their own campsite (there are no restrictions on where visitors can stay).

The burying of human and pet waste in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is prohibited. Anyone who camps farther than a quarter of a mile from a marina must bring a portable toilet or pack it out. Pet waste must also be packed out.

Lake PowellBurro Trail - 13.8 kilometer lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Pena Blanca, New Mexico The southwestern end of Lake Powell in Arizona can be accessed via U.S. Route 89 and State Route 98. State Route 95 and State Route 276 lead to the northeastern end of the lake in Utah.

If you are a hiking enthusiast there are numerous trails in the Lake Powell area. I highly recommend joining www.alltrails.com

AllTrails has 21 great hiking trails, view trails, wildlife trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers just like you.

If you are traveling by camper you'll also find some great local park options, like Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park or Goulding's Resort RV & Campground. There are also 14 moderate trails in Lake Powell ranging from 1 to 50.4 km and from 1,302 to 1,979 meters above sea level.

Climate data for Lake Powell area
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 69
Average high °F (°C) 47.2
Average low °F (°C) 26.9
Record low °F (°C) −2
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.59
Average snowfall inches (cm) 0.2
Source: http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?az9114


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