Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
This vast Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (520/608-6404, www.nps.gov/glca, $15 per vehicle or $7 per pedestrian or bicyclist for seven days, no charge for passing through Page on Hwy. 89) covers 1.25 million acres, most of which spreads northeast into Utah.
Lake Powell stands as the centerpiece, surrounded by beautiful canyon country. Just a handful of roads approach the lake, so you'll need to do some boating or hiking to explore this unique land of water and rock. The recreation area also includes a beautiful remnant of Glen Canyon in a 15-mile section of the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry.
Note that Arizona does not observe daylight savings time. This means that from mid-March to early November, the time in Page and surrounding areas will be an hour later than the time in Utah.
Conservationists deplored the loss of remote and beautiful Glen Canyon of the Colorado River beneath Lake Powell. Today, we have only words, pictures, and memories to remind us of its wonders. On the other hand, the 186-mile-long lake now provides easy access to an area most had not even known existed.
Lake Powell is the second-largest human-made lake within the United States. Only Lake Mead, farther downstream, has a greater water storage capacity. Lake Powell, however, has three times more shoreline—1,960 miles—and holds enough water to cover the state of Pennsylvania a foot deep.
Just a handful of roads approach the lake, so access is basically limited to boats—bays and coves offer nearly limitless opportunities for exploration—and long-distance hiking trails.
If you don't have your own craft, Wahweap and other marinas will rent a boat for fishing, skiing, or houseboating. Boat tours visit Rainbow Bridge (the world's largest natural bridge) and other destinations from Wahweap, Bullfrog, and Halls Crossing Marinas. Sailboats find the steadiest breezes in Wahweap, Padre, Halls, and Bullfrog Bays, where spring winds average 15-20 knots. Kayaks and canoes can be used in the more protected areas.
All boaters need to be alert for approaching storms that can bring 60-mph wind gusts. Waves on open expanses of the lake are sometimes steeper than ocean waves and can exceed six feet from trough to crest.
Marinas and bookstores sell navigation maps of Lake Powell. You'll need an Arizona fishing license for the southern five miles of the lake and a Utah license for the rest of Lake Powell. Obtain licenses and information from marinas on the water or sporting goods stores in Page. Wahweap has a swimming beach (no lifeguards), and boaters can find their own remote spots. Scuba divers can swim underwater with the sizable bass.
Hikers have a choice of easy day trips or long wilderness backpack treks, including trips up the canyons of the Escalante. Other good hiking spots within or adjacent to Glen Canyon NRA include Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Paria Canyon, Dark Canyon, and Grand Gulch. Most of the canyon country near Lake Powell remains wild and little explored—hiking possibilities are limitless. Be sure to carry plenty of water.
Glen Canyon Dam
Construction workers labored 1956-1964 to build this giant concrete structure. It stands 710 feet high above bedrock, and its top measures 1,560 feet across. Thickness ranges from 300 feet at the base to just 25 feet at the top. As part of the Upper Colorado River Storage Project, the dam provides water storage (its main purpose), hydroelectricity, flood control, and recreation on Lake Powell.
Eight giant turbine generators churn out a total of 1,150,000 kilowatts at 13,800 volts. Vertigo sufferers shouldn't look down when driving across Glen Canyon Bridge; cold, green waters of the Colorado River glide 700 feet below.
Photos, paintings, movies, and slide presentations in the visitor center (928/608-6404, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily in summer, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily in winter) show features of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, including Lake Powell and construction of the dam. A giant relief map helps you visualize the rugged terrain surrounding the lake; look closely and you'll spot Rainbow Bridge.
Guided tours inside the dam and generating room depart every half hour daily in summer ($5 adult, $4 senior, $2.50 youths 7-16, free 6 and under). Tours are available outside of high summer season, though they are less frequent in winter; call for schedule. The Glen Canyon Natural History Association (928/645-3523) has books about the recreation area and its environs for sale next to the information desk.
John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum
In town, this small museum (corner of 6 N. Lake Powell Blvd. and N. Navajo Dr., 928/645-9496 or 888/597-6873, www.powellmuseum.org, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., $5 adults, $3 seniors, $1 children 5-12) honors scientist and explorer John Wesley Powell. It's also a good place for local travel information.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Rainbow Bridge (928/608-6200, www.nps.gov/rabr) forms a graceful span 290 feet high and 275 feet wide; the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., would fit neatly underneath. The easiest way to Rainbow Bridge is by boat tour on Lake Powell from Wahweap, Bullfrog, or Halls Crossing Marina.
The more adventurous can hike to the bridge from the Cha Canyon Trailhead (just north across the Arizona-Utah border on the east side of Navajo Mountain) or from the Rainbow Lodge Ruins (just south of the Arizona-Utah border on the west side of Navajo Mountain). Rugged trails from each point wind through highly scenic canyons, meet in Bridge Canyon, then continue two miles to the bridge.
The hike on either trail, or a loop with both (car shuttle needed), is 26-28 miles round-trip. Hikers must be experienced and self-sufficient; topo maps are available at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center and the National Park Service offers detailed directions and trail notes on their website.
No camping is allowed at Rainbow Bridge and no supplies are available. You can camp a half mile east of the bridge at Echo camp. The Dangling Rope Marina and National Park Service Ranger Station are 10 miles away, by water only. The best times to go are April-early June, September, and October. Winter cold and snow discourage visitors, and summer is hot and brings hazardous flash floods.
The National Park Service cannot issue hiking permits to Rainbow Bridge. Obtain the required tribal hiking permit ($5 per person per day) and camping permit (additional $5 per person per night) from the Cameron visitor center (not always open) or Navajo Parks Department (928/871-6451, www.navajonationparks.org).
By far the most popular way to visit Rainbow Bridge is to sign on with a boat tour and take a half- or whole day trip to see the national monument. Most tours leave from Wahweap Marina (928/645-1070, www.lakepowell.com, $100 adults, $72 children for full-day trip, reservations recommended), off U.S. 89. Tours run daily April-October.
Once at Painted Arch, tour boats park at a floating dock, and you can walk to a viewing area beneath the arch, a distance of about a mile.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition