Never say Never. Latest example: A few years back naysayers were claiming Lake Powell would “never’’ fill again. Okay, it didn’t quite hit the full mark this year, but since 2005, the lake has been on a steady rise, and this spring an incredible amount of water flowed into the reservoir.
That’s good news for visitors planning to hit the Utah landmark for the long, Labor Day weekend, when they’ll find bigger bays, fewer obstacles, deeper canyons, better fishing and more room to boat, swim and fish.
While Powell isn’t a new lake, it has a new look. And, as the average boater will find, that may require a new approach. What were popular beaches the last few years are now 50 feet underwater, meaning campers and houseboat drivers will have to do a little scouting to find new locations, which isn’t so difficult. The lake’s surface has expanded so much means there’s now more areas to search. Camping site are also more spread out, so it’s easier to get away from noisy neighbors and boats and wave runners chasing about.
The rising waters have also opened up previously unreachable canyons and provide new opportunities to explore. Boating up one of the narrow canyons, with vertical walls climbing several hundred feet and then meeting at the top to allow a sliver of sky to show through, is truly an awe-inspiring journey. Reaching the back of the canyon and setting out afoot, realizing it has been a decade or more since anyone has even had the opportunity to see the landscape, is gripping.
Of course, you can’t please everyone. Steve Ward, marketing director at Antelope Point, said a few boaters have complained about too much vegetation on the shoreline and “wished the water level was down.’’ That new vegetation, however, is a fisherman’s jackpot. It becomes a safety zones for young fish, which means greater survival and thus many more fish—and larger ones, too—in the future.
Though Powell is always Powell, even in low water, those most familiar with the lake have been waiting for it to rise up again, anxious for sure signs it will remain a popular vacationing spot for many years in the future.
2005—Lake Powell was down 150 feet and held 33 percent of its official water capacity.
2011—Capacity is at 75 percent, and total water surface has increased 82 percent, from 87,000 surface acres to 129,000 surface acres.
If casting a line is of interest, September offers some of the more exciting fishing experiences called “boils.’’ What’s a boil? Striped bass herd their favorite food, thread-fin shad, like cattle into large schools and then go on a feeding frenzy on the surface, causing the water to appear as if its boiling. A crank bait or grub tossed in among the melee can result, one report said, in 40 to 60 large stripers caught. Most boils occur in the early morning or late afternoon.
HOW TO GO
There are six marinas on the shores of Lake Powell—Hite, Bullfrog, Dangling Rope, Antelope Point, Halls Crossing and Wahweap. Only Dangling Rope is accessible by water; the remaining by boat and vehicle. With the exception of Hite, all marinas offer fuel, sundries and ice.
Follow Highway 24 out of Hanksville to Bullfrog or continue on Highway 95 to Hite. In the summer, a ferry travels between Bullfrog and Halls Crossing. Best to reach Wahweap and Antelope Point by taking Panguitch cutoff 20 miles past Beaver on I-15. Follow Highway 89 to Panguitch, then to Kanab and into Page, Ariz. Hit Wahweap prior to Page; Antelope Point, the lake’s newest marina, is seven miles east of Page. Distance to Bullfrog from Salt Lake City is 300 miles and distance to Page is 380 miles.
-Boat rentals are available at Bullfrog, Halls Crossing, Wahweap and Antelope Point, and launch permits are required.
-Entrance fee to Glen Canyon Recreation Area is $15 per vehicle and $16 per boat.
-Gas at Powell fuel docks range from $4.60 to $4.80.
-Arrive early, when it’s cool, and be out on the lake before the countryside heats up.
-A battery-operated fan is a nice thing to have. Use sunscreen.
-Check on-line at wayneswords.com before heading lakeside to find out what’s bitting and where.
-Plan a trip into one of the marinas for a cool ice cream bar. It’s a nice break.
-Take extra water and use lots and lots of sunscreen.
-Remember, cliff jumping is prohibited. Powell's depth varies drastically, often within a few feet. Don't ruin your vacation (or your spine). By definition the National Park Service defines a cliff as rock, soil or structure being 15 feet or higher.
-Consider fall trips. The marinas are less crowded, the water’s still warm and the rising and setting sun really accentuates colors.
-Some of the best fishing is north right now, but that’s also where the heaviest concentrations of debris, brought down by the high runoff, can be found.