By Jim Favors
Lake Powell is rated right up in the top five places we’ve boated. Like most of our boating adventures our time on Lake Powell seemed to vanish before we realized it, ending much sooner than we wanted it to. As we slowly motored westward and out of the narrower canyons of the lake and back toward Wahweap Marina, I couldn’t help but compare the dwindling time we had left to how Lisa must feel when a night of dancing is coming to an end and the “Last Dance” song is played. We were glad for the experience but also sad to have the time soon coming to an end.
The palisades, shown here in Dungeon Canyon, give a good size perspective compared to our Ranger Tug.
It’s been said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and this could not be truer than when talking about Lake Powell. For some folks, Lake Powell is no more then a large body of water surrounded by rocks – lots of rocks, and represents little or no beauty to them. There’s nothing wrong with this sentiment, they’re not right or wrong it’s just born of their personal experience or opinion. At the other extreme you have folks, like the woman from Page, Arizona, who cut my hair just before our trip into the lake. She claimed she came to the Lake Powell area from Seattle, Washington because she loved the beauty of the rock formations, wide-open landscape and seemingly endless supply of sunshine. Whether you fit in one camp or the other, or somewhere in between, our feelings are that to be truly objective one should experience Lake Powell first hand, in order to more accurately evaluate its breathtaking beauty. Maybe this sounds like a Chamber of Commerce pitch, it’s not, we just love this place as evidenced by it being one of our top five cruising destinations.
Another vantage point, this time the view is behind our boat in Dungeon Canyon.
When we left Oak Canyon, our first stop after Cottonwood Canyon, we had three days left on Lake Powell; I had visions of beach anchoring in Mountain Sheep Canyon. My research claimed there were many small coves for beaching our boat. Entering the canyon early in the day, we had anticipated a short cruising day with plenty of time to enjoy the new surroundings. It was a beautiful cruise, with an ever-narrowing gorge and stunning rock formations, but we finally had to give up on spending the night there and exit the canyon. With the 50-foot rise in water level this season the beach anchorage possibilities had dwindled down to only one and we basically watched as a quick, little scout powerboat nabbed it for its houseboat crew waiting just outside the canyon on the main channel.
The tiny spec next to the waters edge is me heading off on a climbing adventure.
Not to be deterred we went to our Plan B, we always feel it is important to have a back up plan when boating. Our Plan B was Dungeon Canyon where we knew they had numerous beach anchorages. We had spotted the sandy beaches when we passed by on day two of our Lake Powell excursion. Having made note of this spot at that time, we altered our day’s cruise to include Dungeon Canyon and once anchored, we were so pleased with the results, we decided to stay for two nights.
Once settled into an anchorage I’m usually ready to get off of the boat so I can stretch my legs and explore the surroundings. Our beach site had an entire open valley to explore but I had my eyes on a small butte that looked like it might be a promising trek. Although you would have thought I’d learned my lesson the first time I ascended a steep cliff, in Cottonwood Canyon, off I went, working my way up the ragged rock formation, never thinking about the trip back down. From waters edge the butte didn’t appear to be that tall, that is until I started to make the climb. I did make it to the top and the views of the Dungeon Canyon, Lake Powell and the Colorado River were well worth the effort. After a few minutes of reflecting on Nature’s beauty I had to face the reality of having to work my way back down the small butte and
back to the boat. Trust me it’s a lot harder going down. Cautiously, I slowly meandered down, trying to retrace my steps by carefully testing each foothold and making sure the rocks I grabbed with my hands were secure and wouldn’t crumble under my grasp.
Binoculars up to my eyes in search of Moki steps.
Lisa pointing out the elusive, prehistoric Moki steps, still useable after all these years.
Making it back to the boat with only a few body scrapes, I felt compelled to continue exploring, in the opposite direction. I stopped by the boat and asked Lisa if she’d like to venture off in search of some reported ancient Moki steps that should be nearby. Moki steps are believed to have been carved into rock canyon walls by the aboriginal people called Anasazi, who inhabited a large area of Lake Powell in prehistoric time. It is surmised the steps were carved in the rock in order to make navigating to the riverbed or up to higher pastures easier.
We struck out, heading south, along the base of the palisades that surround Dungeon Canyon, we’d walk for a while and then we’d look through the binoculars trying to scout out the illusive Moki steps. We must have walked two or three miles, trying the binoculars every few hundred feet to scan the surrounding rock walls when we finally gave up. As we made a u-turn back to the boat, we decided to hike back by way of the shoreline. Working ourselves away from the palisades base, we had to descend over some ridges and rock formations in order to make it to the waters edge and wouldn’t you know it, when we least expected it, the Moki steps made their appearance in a very unexpected spot close to the water, nowhere close to where we had been looking.
When we left Dungeon Canyon after two days, we only had one day remaining on Lake Powell and the reality started to set in that our time in this marvelous paradise was coming to an end; the Last Dance was near. We decided to spend our last day/night where we started our adventure, in Padre Canyon.
This is our Padre Canyon campsite.
Mother Nature couldn’t have made a nicer spot to beach anchor than this, our last stop on Lake Powell.
During our first visit to Padre Canyon, as we were cautiously scanning the shoreline for a spot to try out our beach anchor skills, we had spotted a natural sand beach, with a well-protected slip-sized cove that had the perfect dimensions for one vessel to beach anchor. During our first visit this spot was taken so, we were happy to see it was available when we made our approach. Surrounded on two sides with smooth rock ledges, this pint-sized cove was surrounded on all sides by high canyon walls. We knew this was the perfect place for us to end our Lake Powell experience.
After 10 days on Lake Powell our garbage collection was rather large and odoriferous.
After 10 days of sensory overload our eyes and brains were filled with limestone rock formations, featuring names like Gunsight Butte, Llewellyn and Davis Gulch, Cathedral, Cottonwood, Twilight, Driftwood, Dungeon, Rainbow Bridge Canyons and so many more we found ourselves trying to figure out when we might be able to return. I've often heard you can never quite experience something the way you do the very first time. With that said I’m thinking Lake Powell could be the exception to the rule. With 96 named canyons and 1960 miles of shoreline and the constant changing seasonal water levels, my guess would be that a second cruise would be just as rewarding as our first.
Getting ready to haul our tug from Lake Powell we’ll head east to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to store our boat for a few months while we head home for the holidays, one of the advantages of a trailerable boat.
Lisa and I walked the beach around our anchorage on the morning of our last day and while doing so we verbally reflected on our Lake Powell adventure. The brilliant star littered, moonlit, night sky, magnificent sunsets and corresponding reflective colored light shows off of the canyon rock face along with all of the unique anchoring possibilities brought this cruise right up to the top of our boating experiences. It’s my contention that at the end of our ten day cruise of Lake Powell, when we were having our review in Padre Canyon, that it was just the Last Dance for this trip, we feel certain we’ll be back.
Check out this ramp in the new BoatUS Ramp Locator