A labyrinth of waterways and wide open channels weaves along the Utah-Arizona border. Walls of red sandstone give way to bright skies that come alive with stars at night. In a wild landscape like this, thunderstorms often move in quickly and without warning.
Lake Powell is one of the largest lakes in the United States, and its shoreline spans over 2,000 miles long. Over millions of years, natural elements whittled the sandstone landscape into a large canyon. The Glen Canyon Dam, built in 1963, backed up the Colorado River and created Lake Powell as it exists today. Some travelers may know of Lake Powell from an iconic shot of Horseshoe Bend, downstream from Glen Canyon Dam where you can spot one of the region’s iconic goosenecks from a panoramic viewpoint.
With travelers wanting to venture away from cities and into remote wilderness, here are a few reasons why Lake Powell is top destination to consider once it’s safe to travel again.
Water meets the wild west
The other night, my friends and I turned on Once Upon a Time in the West, a Western classic that captures the beauty of America’s Southwest so distinctly. Wide, open landscapes with rust dirt and stacked geological buttes–there is no place quite like it. Lake Powell is where this aspect of the wild west meets fresh water. Though the landscape is barren except for the hardiest of plants and land creatures, fish thrive in the lake itself. The striking contrast adds an element of beauty that’s not found at lakes surrounded by forests or desert devoid of water.
Stars like you’ve never seen
Renting a houseboat and venturing up the San Juan arm of Lake Powell will take you to a part of the lake that is so special and so remote, there’s a chance you won’t find cell phone service. According to the National Park Service, 80-percent of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from where they live. Accessible darkness is becoming a scarce resource thanks to big city living and increased urbanization. At Lake Powell, no matter if you’re camping on the shoreline or sleeping on deck of a houseboat, looking up at the night sky will reveal constellations and shooting stars. Rainbow Bridge, one of the largest natural arches in the world, has been designated as a Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark Sky Association.
Lake Powell’s mirror-flat water can be explored on a kayak, standup paddleboard, or from the helm of a boat. A water skiers and wakeboarder’s paradise, Lake Powell’s narrow canyons quell wind chop and wakes created by other boats (on some parts of the lake, you can spend days without seeing another craft). And if you prefer to explore on foot, a great view of the lake is usually found at the top of any nearby butte or hill. It’s not uncommon to hike up a red rock face and find a cave or complete hole in the cliff.
The National Park Service speculates that Lake Powell has been inhabited for over 11,000 years. Artifacts like sandals, baskets, pottery, and cliff carvings are spotted through Glen Canyon, which includes part of Lake Powell. Cliff dwellings created by Ancestral Puebloans can still be seen today.
And if you’re interested in going back even further in time, all you have to do is look around. Rock layers on the walls of Glen Canyon have revealed fossils of past life forms, like dinosaurs, that date back to the Mesozoic Era, over 65 million years ago.
Have you ever been to Lake Powell? Share your tips for visiting below.