As might be expected, after a rather dry winter, the water level at Lake Powell (aka Glen Canyon Recreation Area) is down roughly 33 feet from 2011’s peak.
Latest figures have the level at 3,627 feet above sea level. After a very heavy 2010–11 winter, the lake reached 3,660. And hydrologists say it would have hit the full mark of 3,700 had there not been extra releases approved.
The drop actually means very little to lake visitors. The face of the lake changes very little with the rising and lowering of the lake. It features the same steep red-rock cliffs, sandy beaches, blue waters, same landscape colors and lots of rolling slickrock.
There are some advantages to the lower lake levels.
First, the drop in water levels opens new beach property around the lake.
Second, the lowering of the water allows vegetation to grow that becomes vital fish habitat when levels eventually rise again.
Lake Powell is, in fact, one of Utah’s top two recreational sites. First is Zion National Park. Last year Lake Powell drew 2.3 million visitors. Zion drew 2.7 million. Some years visitation numbers are about the same.
Some things have changed over the years. How people recreate, for example. Waterskiing was once the top choice of boaters. Now it’s rare to see someone cutting across the wake on a single ski.
The latest toy is the surfboard and the introduction of the surf boat, which is a direct-drive boat with the ability to take on extra water. The extra weight makes for a larger wake for surfing.
Surfers start with feet on the board and holding a short rope. On command the boat pulls the rider and board to the surface. The rider then finds the “sweet spot’’ in the wave, releases the rope and rides the wave. Easy.
So much so that many adults are starting out with a youngster in the water and riding the board as a double.
Tubing remains popular and manufacturers are responding by making floating tubes in all sizes and shapes. Wake boarding is holding its own and a few people are riding the air chair.
Personal watercrafts are still popular. Park staff are constantly reminding owners that the crafts are considered a vessel and lone riders must be 18 years of age in Utah and 12 in Arizona.
Also, National Park Service staff no longer allows self-certification of watercraft because of the rising threat of quagga and zebra mussels. It’s mandatory watercraft be washed in hot water and certified clean at Bullfrog and Wahweap.
Fishing is still one of the main pastimes. Once a popular trout water, the lake now offers up a full menu of fish—striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie, sun fish, catfish, northern pike, bluegill, perch and carp, but no trout. For a fishing report visit wayneswords.com.
Because of low water levels, the marina at Hite is no longer offering fuel service, so most of the camping is being done down lake, mostly from Hansen Creek above Bullfrog down to Wahweap.
And, of course, the other five marinas are open and offering all the needed sundries, including fuel, food, drinks and ice.
Boat and personal watercraft rentals are also available at all marinas but Dangling Rope.
Size: 186 miles long. Covers only 13 percent of Glen Canyon Recreation Area. When full is 27 million acre-feet.
Information: utah.com, visitutah.com, lakepowell.com, nps.gov/glca.
Water Temperature: 79–83
Marinas: Wahweap (Arizona), Bullfrog (Utah), Halls Crossing (Utah), Antelope Point (Arizona), Dangling Rope (Utah).
Distance Salt Lake City to Bullfrog: 285 miles
Distance Salt Lake City to Page, AZ: 391 miles