Return to A Deliberate Year

A Desert Drowned

Lone Rock Campground
Lake Powell, Arizona

I have been slow to write lately. But I have to get some of this down now, or I may lose it. I just got back from a trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. When Teddy Roosevelt came here, it took a week on mule and horseback, in the care of laconic Piute and Navajo guides. It was, as he recorded, a "toilsome" journey.

I traveled in a large launch, on the waters of Lake Powell, for half a day. There was a Navajo guide and pilot, but she was anything but laconic. Her name was Charlotte, and she kept up a rapid and informative patter about the sights all along the way. Unfortunately I only heard about half of it over the drumming of the hull against the water, and the blasts of wind that kept trying to take my hat off. That's okay. It may have been more comfortable down below, but up top is where I had to be. My head was swiveling so much, it's a wonder I didn't screw myself down into the superstructure.

It is the most amazing and unnatural thing to see a desert drowned. Imagine Monument Valley, awash in the Biblical Flood, those penitential waters lapping the tops of sandy buttes. Now leave penance behind, and imagine a moonscape you can float around in, indeed make the occasion of casual sport, with water skiers weaving slaloms out of the red mouths of canyons, fishermen trolling sleepily from the backs of houseboats, lifting a beer and waving as they pass by.

It is a vast realm of visual dissonance. Here and there among the windstirred waves are floating tumbleweeds, doubtless flabbergasted, in their mild vegetable way, to find themselves at the end of the long dry journey of their lives in the midst of so much water. Lake Powell is the second largest reservoir in the United States, in terms of volume. Lake Mead is deeper, and holds more. But nothing matches the convoluted and dramatic shoreline here. According to Charlotte, taking in all the side canyons, the shores of Lake Powell are longer than the Pacific coast of the United States. And it's 500 feet deep at the dam.

You could spend months here in a power boat, idling in and out, fishing for your supper, and never cross your own path. In a kayak, you could spend years. I asked our guide when was the best time to be here for an extended period.

"It's still a little nippy in March, especially at night, but the weather gets better every day. Right after the end of May, it starts to get hot and crowded. Kids are out of school. April and May are best. It stays hot until October."

Houseboats are ideal, but rent for $2000 per week, plus gas. And you have to have a lighter to get up into some of the canyons. An 18 foot boat will go just about anywhere, and if you pick the right boat you can sleep in it. I'm thinking a 12 foot Foldbote, a 5 horse motor, and a tent. Move the fifth wheel between the 4 marinas accessible by road. I can see it now. Am I still young enough to make this work?

Lake Powell from March to May - what a great start for a trip to Alaska! Maybe next year. Maybe next year.

I believe she said the Lake was 184 miles long. The map shows 139 miles from the dam to Hite Marina, and there's many miles of canyon past that, as the lake gradually turns into a river again, up near Moab. It was 50 miles by water just from Wahweap Marina to Rainbow Bridge. Three and a half hours, one way.

Just past the narrows by the dam, we passed by a houseboat towing a large flatbottom full of sacks, and another small boat behind that. It was the Trash Tracker, a voluntary effort which is also a good cheap way to get to know the lake. Volunteers go out for a week at a time, cleaning up the shoreline and campsites, living on the houseboat. You bring your own bedding and pay for your food.

Most people being pigs, of course, the work never ends.

Charlotte says the old guy running this effort knows the Lake as well as anyone, and is happy to share his secrets. In a week you will pass by many a good fishing spot, colorful campsite, and little known petroglyph. By the end of the week you should have a good start on your BS, majoring in Lake Powell.

If you are feeling spry and adventurous, or just want to do a good deed, you can write for information, or ask any park ranger about it. I should know more in a few days.

That's enough for now. It's time for bed. More later.


Return to Around the Campfire
Comments are welcome in the rec.outdoors.rv-travel newsgroup,
or to
© Copyright 2003-2008 Bob Giddings, All Rights Reserved
Webspace provided by Arcata Pet Supplies