Lake Powell Primer
by Bruce Armstrong 

click pictures for larger view

Every boating publication has already done a piece about Lake Powell, so I'll make this a bit different, touching the mechanical highlights only. Trying to describe, much less photograph, the majesty of this body of water is well beyond my skills . . . . and I've sold some of my pictures in the past. Powell is normally seen from a houseboat or a parasite PWC/speedboat towed behind one's houseboat. This is because of the marina/gasoline situation....or should I say, lack of same. GAS: Powell (approx 3600') is nearly two hundred miles long, top to bottom, with gas at both ends and at third distances along the way. About half way up the lake, side tributaries (San Juan River, 100 miles round trip, and Escalante River, 50 miles round trip) add to the mileage to be covered unfueled. In other words, if you plan to see the entire lake in your own boat and not a Winnebago with a keel, you need a150 mile range. I've got 65 gallons below deck in my 20' Tolman skiff and have to avoid the temptation of running up every inviting canyon on the way back from, say, the upper reaches of the San Juan River.

WEATHER: Summer brings kids, kids bring PWC's. Go when school's in session, the spring if you don't mind cold water, the fall if you like to swim. Winds can kick up, but warnings about extremely rough conditions are broadcast by folks with bow-riders and water-ski boats.....if your craft can stand a mild blow on the ocean, don't worry about Powell. 

MOORING: Western fresh water boaters don't "get" ground tackle and anchoring. These folks drive their expensive sedan cruisers up on the sand and tie off to a bolder with yellow poly-line. If you can set two anchors, front to back, you will never be without private, cozy spots to spend the night. 

WATER LEVEL: It's down 35' from full right now, but this opens up more sandy beaches for afternoon also brings big, hard things near the surface. It's not unusual for one's depth finder to go from 400' to 20' in a few hundred yards. The changing water color tells you the story but the scrapes on top of some barely submerged rocks tells one that not all skippers are paying attention; and don't expect the Park Service to tag every obstruction. 

EXPLORING: Again, I won't try to describe the thrills around every bend. Take notes about each canyon because in a day you can see a dozen different canyon structures which you swear you won't will. Do remember Twilight, Forty Mile Creek, Davis Gulch, Oak, and Mountain Sheep, however. Enough said. My favorite places on the lake are all near the base of 10,000' Navajo Mountain, Rainbow Bridge National Monument at dawn (pre-tour boat) being perhaps the most beautiful spot in the world. 

FISHING: They say it's great...and not just for the giant carp that infest the marinas. I, however, spent a full year building my Tolman skiff for travel, exploring, living in, and as a photo platform. The only fish allowed in my boat better already be covered in lemon juice and on a bun. No fish piss in my boat! Any problems I've had on Lake Powell will be addressed this winter with the installation of new four-stroke outboards. Don't miss the chance to visit this wonder. There are some rowdy party-rats on some of the house boats, but any boater with basic salt-water skills can hide away from these idiots. Oh....try for a full moon and don't expect to find a good meal in Page, Arizona. 

Bruce Armstrong/Santa Barbara.


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