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Lake Powell has taken off in recent years, bringing a flood of new visitors to experience the Southwest. While the name is easily recognizable, it takes quite an effort to get to, and the lake itself is far from typical. Here are five things you need to understand when considering a trip:
The lake is much, much bigger than you think.
Lake Powell stretches into two states, Utah and Arizona. It covers an area of more than 250 square miles; as a comparison, Lake Tahoe is 191 square miles. But, whereas Lake Tahoe looks and feels like a lake-that is, it's a circular body of water that you can drive around-Lake Powell is a long, finger-filled, narrow body of water that does not, in any way really, resemble a lake. The perspective on its size is always blocked by the canyon walls, by its sprawling, snake-like nature. The Lake is so winding and narrow and long that it is said to have more coastline than California.
There are many ways to experience the lake, but, a boat tour is essential.
You can kayak parts of Lake Powell, and you can swim in it, and you can hike on its shores a bit, but the only way to truly understand it is to explore it by boat. As I say, this is not a circular lake-it sprawls on and on through canyon country, and around every bend is a new perspective. Arguably even more interesting than the water itself are the canyon walls and formations that encase it. It is an absolute must to head out on a boat tour. With no road access to most of the lake, it is the only way to see beyond the marinas at Lake Powell.
Understanding the history of Lake Powell is essential.
How did Lake Powell come to be? The answer to this question might surprise you. Your first stop before you actually visit the lake should be the Glen Canyon Dam. Here, you will get some perspective.
The dam, more than 700 feet high, was built in 1963, damming the Colorado River. In total, it took more than 17 years for what we know today as Lake Powell to "fill" behind the dam. Before the creation of the dam, Lake Powell did not exist-the terrain was similar to what we still see on the other side of the Glen Canyon Dam.
For those interested, a nice account of a journey through the "old" Glen Canyon is found in Edward Abbey's famous book, Desert Solitaire. Lake Powell was named after John Wesley Powell, who first explored the canyon in 1869.
There are several points of entrance to the lake.
There are many entrances through which to access Lake Powell. The main marinas are Wahweap Marina (Arizona), Antelope Point Marina (Arizona), Dangling Rope Marina (Utah), Halls Crossing Marina (Utah),and Bullfrog Marina (Utah). Which you choose will depend on where you are coming from, where you want to go, and what part of the lake you want to explore.
The nearby town of Page, and its attractions, are worth using as a home base.
That said, if I can make a suggestion, the two Arizona marinas, Wahweap and Antelope, are located just outside the town of Page, where you can find not only a host of other activities, but also some doses of modern comfort as you explore Canyon Country.
Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are two major outdoor attractions nearby, both of which have become iconic in the Southwest thanks to social media. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a mere two-hour drive.
And the town of Page might surprise. Go ahead and try to resist the smell of barbecue coming from the smoker out front of Big John's Texas BBQ. If you're in search of craft beer (or coffee), check out LPEspresso. For local pizza, grab a bite at Strombolli's.
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Will is a nomad-at-large and travel columnist, penning profiles, features and dispatches from afar. His wake and wander...
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