Epic Roadtrip Stop #6: Lake Powell

Antelope Canyon at Lake Powell

Image and text by Gabrielle.

As I mentioned in the last trip post, we weren’t originally planning to stop at Lake Powell, but knowing it was on our way, we ultimately decided to squeeze it in. And we’re so glad we did!

Lake Powell was one of the main destinations for my family vacations growing up and I have a dear place for it in my heart. To me, the ideal way to visit Lake Powell is on a houseboat. I want to stay for 5 days at least, and have access to a motor boat for water skiing and exploring the canyons, and wave runners too. It’s a particular sort of trip and it requires a ton of preparation because you have to bring all food and supplies with you.

I suppose that’s why I didn’t put Lake Powell on the original schedule — I think I forgot you could enjoy the lake even if you only have one day, and even if you don’t have access to a house boat. : )

This was how our last minute day worked out:

We drove into the Wahweap area after noon, and looked for signs to boat rentals. We knew chances were slim, but we thought it was worth a try. But as we predicted, the boat rentals were taken. Waverunners too! Had we been there earlier, or had we been able to book via the internet (at Jacob’s Lake, where we stayed the night before, we didn’t have internet or cell phone coverage), I’m sure we would have had better luck. But no matter. We quickly made plan B.

We drove from the Boat Rental area to the Wahweap Swimming Area. We took our towels down to the beach and got in the water as quickly as we could. The sun was brutal that day! So it was heavenly to be in the water, and there were beautiful views of Castle Rock from the beach. After about an hour, we saw the sky changing and watched as a summer storm came in. When the winds reached us, we finished up our swimming and sought out a late lunch.

Since we couldn’t rent a boat, we decided to take a boat tour instead — we really wanted the kids to see what it was like out on the water. Boat tours launch from the Lake Powell Hotel & Resort (also at Wahweap), so we booked our tickets and ate lunch there at the hotel while we waited for our launch time. The boat tour was beautiful. It was an hour and a half and took us past the Glen Canyon Dam into Antelope Canyon.

One thing about Lake Powell: it’s not inexpensive. Well, if you want to swim only, it’s actually totally affordable. An annual National Parks Pass gets you in for free, and swimming doesn’t cost a thing. But if you want to get out on the water, the costs add up fast. A speed boat rental, plus skis, or a wakeboard, or a tube, is not cheap. Either are boat tour tickets. So our day at the lake felt like a splurge. But we all concluded it was worth it.

After the boat tour, we jumped in the lake one more time, swam for another half an hour, then said our goodbyes.

I hadn’t been to Lake Powell for years and it was interesting to see what it was like with the water levels lower than during my childhood. The peak water level was during 1983 and 84, and it’s much lower now, but still gorgeous. As a child, I assumed Lake Powell was universally loved. It had never occurred to me that there were many people who thought it was awful that we had filled in a huge section of gorgeous Glen Canyon. My teenage brain couldn’t really understand the issue until someone said to me: Imagine if we’d filled in the Grand Canyon, or even a section of it. And then it clicked for me and I realized what an insane manmade alteration we’d made. But still, I can’t help but love Lake Powell. It’s a magical place.

A last tidbit about the lake. The next morning, we drove over the Glen Canyon Dam on our way toward Moab. If you’re in the area, the Dam is worth a visit. On one side you see the Lake, and on the other side, you see the deep, deep, canyon with the Colorado River running along the bottom. All of sudden you realize that while you’re floating in the water in the middle of Lake Powell, you’re actually hundreds of feet above ground. So crazy!

Have you ever been? Did you go on a houseboat and stay for awhile? Or maybe camped on the beach? Or did you drop in like us, just to catch a glimpse and a swim?

13 thoughts on “Epic Roadtrip Stop #6: Lake Powell”

  1. I love these posts! I did this same route you did but in the reverse direction. I ended up in Page after Arches and Monument Valley – I had never heard of Lake Powell! Found it completely by accident and learned all about the houseboat phenomenon from other tourists. It’s gorgeous!

  2. I also practically grew up on that lake – even though I was from Illinois. My parents found it via National Geographic and we took an epic motorhome (rental) trip with my whole family out there to the houseboat in 1981 (I was just 5 but remember every bit of it!). Then we went back every 5 years until everyone eventually grew up. Now we go maybe every 7. The in between years we would raft the Grand Canyon – which is indescribable.
    Like you I had the same experience about the lake – not realizing the beauty of the lake actually took away something equally beautiful. But I have just loved spending time there. We are actually currently booking a houseboat for next July. For the first time ever I’ll bring my kids. I’m so excited to share it with them. And so nervous to see it so low. My memories are not only of a full pool, but of the overflows open at the damn as well as crazy river memories of rafting below with very high water. Oh if it would just rain again ;)
    Thanks for sharing… and glad to hear about the boat tour – I never would have though of that. But I will say I’m thinking of looking into kayaks this time around…

    1. That’s a really good question. We should add it up. Or maybe the starting mileage of the van is on our rental contract — then it would be easy to see instantly.

  3. Yes. Lake Powell is magical. We went there for 15 years. Every year. We had our own cabin cruiser which we lived on for 2 weeks. Being self contained, we stayed on different arms of the lake every night. Sometimes there were 25+ (They had their own boats) and sometimes just the 2 of us.

    Thanks for the memories.!

  4. I’ve never been, which is weird since I live in New Mexico, but also, I had no idea Lake Powell was a man-made reservoir until this post! Crazy.

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