Lake Powell is a relaxing, recreational and sunny vacation spot – especially if you have a houseboat
By Jeanette W. Bennett
The first time I dipped my foot in Lake Powell was when my husband and I drove down from BYU in the mid-’90s to see what all the fuss was about. We didn’t have a boat or any water toys. Our stay consisted of a few hours of oohing and ahing over the scenery and pledging to come back when our newlywed years were behind us.
And now we’ve been back. And it was worth the wait.
If you haven’t been to Lake Powell before, you might think it’s overhyped. You’ve undoubtedly heard your co-workers and neighbors rave about their Lake Powell vacations. And it might be tempting to think it’s not as great as they say. For once, the hype equals the experience. Between the stunning scenery, the warm water temperatures and the proximity to Utah Valley (4-6 hours, depending on which marina you choose), Lake Powell can be a dream vacation.
Although news reports the past few years paint a grim picture of water levels, the truth is that 2005 is a great year for houseboating. The lake will rise 50 feet during 2005, then drop 20 feet this fall for a net gain of 30 feet. With a shoreline of nearly 2,000 miles, that’s an unbelievable amount of water in one year.
If you are looking for a family getaway that is the perfect combination of relaxation and recreation, pack your swimsuits, sand toys, sunscreen and head south. If you already have a boat, you are probably no stranger to the red rock reservoir. If you don’t have a boat, plan to rent a powerboat and/or houseboat once you get to Lake Powell.
Making a home sweet home
Once you’ve arrived at Lake Powell, your first decision will be where to stay. For the prime experience, stay on a houseboat. Rentals are available, or there are timeshares for sale (for information, on renting or purchasing, visit www.lakepowellresorts.com).
If you plan to rent a houseboat, you’ll likely have to book for a minimum of three nights. Most houseboats sleep 10-12 people. Prices vary depending on the time of the year you book your boat. Prime summer weeks are naturally the most expensive, but they also offer the best water and air temperatures for boating, skiing and swimming.
With air conditioning, bathrooms and kitchen facilities, a houseboat offers all the upsides of camping without any of the downsides. For us, a houseboat made the vacation more enjoyable for our young family. The showers helped us keep the kids clean. The air conditioning and heater helped even out the air temperature, which made sleeping much more comfortable. And the kids liked having a kitchen table to lay out their new shell collections and then do some coloring while the adults did the cooking and cleaning.
If you choose not to houseboat, bring your tent and sleeping bags. There are places to camp near Bullfrog or Wahweap marinas, or if you own or rent a powerboat, you can find a more private camping spot out in the lake. The lower water levels have provided more sandy beaches down the skinny fingers of the lake. After you’ve set up camp and feel settled, it’s time to play.
The most popular activity might be cruising around on the boat and taking turns skiing and playing on the water banana. If that gets old, or if the water is too cold (which will only happen if you are there in winter or early spring), consider visiting the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. It is the largest natural bridge in the world at 290 feet tall and 270 feet across. Rainbow Bridge is considered sacred by the Navajo culture as a symbol of Deity responsible for creating clouds, rainbows and rain, which is the essence of life in the desert.
The bridge is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and it was formed by erosion of the sandstone by water flowing from Navajo Mountain toward the Colorado River.
Rainbow Bridge is 50 boat miles northeast of Wahweap Marina. There are no services available at Rainbow Bridge, other than restrooms. Rainbow Bridge is open year-round, and there isn’t a separate entrance fee.
If you’d like some other specific things to put on your “to-do” list, consider the Wahweap Bay Cruise, the Sunset Cruise or the Sunset Dinner Cruise. These cruises are all aboard the Canyon King Paddlewheeler. You might also consider taking the Escalante Explorer down the Escalante arm of Lake Powell, or the Canyon Explorer tour takes visits to Forgotten Canyon.
If you have some extra days and need some non-water time, you are within hours of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park.
Although these excursions will enhance your journal entries about your vacation, you can certainly have plenty of laughs and memories simply by “hanging out” at the lake. Your family can invent water games, improve their skiing abilities and have sandcastle contests. Your boys may catch lizards and then feed and observe them for hours. These unplanned activities may be the best way to spend your days at Powell.
While Lake Powell photo albums usually consist of skiing and cliff jumping, there’s another brand of visitor – the fishermen. Spring visitors to Lake Powell usually have fishing poles in tow. Smallmouth bass, largemouth, walleye, catfish and crappie can be caught on Lake Powell.
The spring 2005 fishing season was the best it has been in years. The above normal spring runoff and newly extended concrete launch ramps created ideal fishing conditions. Shad numbers have peaked for two straight years, and some say the adult striped bass are nearing the best ever at Lake Powell, with 4-6 pound fish being common and 7-10 pound fish possible this past spring. The Travel Department is sponsored by LDS Travel Study Tours, which offers exceptional group travel to the LDS community, continuing the legacy of BYU Travel Study.