In the beginning, Lake Powell was seen as an unlikely vacation stop. The giant body of water created by the controversial Glen Canyon Dam across the Colorado River was simply too remote, too primitive and offered travelers too little—or so was the consensus of early planners.
Projections were that somewhere around 50,000 travelers, mostly fishermen, would visit the lake each year. But this year, nearly 2.5 million visitors are expected on Powell’s shores and waters. Their average stay will be more than four days, the longest in the federal park system. Lake Powell is, in fact, the second most popular tourist attraction in Utah. Only Temple Square draws more visitors, and anglers alone will spend nearly two million hours casting in the bays and coves.
What planners failed to include in their planning is that the lake is a natural playground and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It is a land of a million picturesque postcards, where earth-tone cliffs reflect perfect images off calm waters, where canyon walls close into slots, wide sandy slopes reach down to the water’s edge, slickrock shores roll like waves, and coves and canyons offer beach-front accommodations. And, in the summer, the water is warm, clear and inviting. It is a lake that provides a spectrum of recreational opportunities, from fishing to swimming to a full range of water sports in narrow, cliff-lined channels or expansive bays.
At 186 miles long, Powell looks like a slim sliver on a map, but because of the large number of bays, canyons and coves, the lake offers more miles of shoreline—1,800 miles—than the U.S. Pacific Coast. Among other things, that shoreline gives vacationers of all ages the option of staying in a camp community or finding peaceful seclusion on a houseboat.
Houseboats are equipped with the conveniences of home.
Home Sweet Boat
Houseboats have, over the years, become the most popular on-lake accommodations, followed by smaller boats with sleeping arrangements, then by tents and sleeping bags on the shore. But it was the introduction of the houseboat back in 1964 that helped start the rush of visitors. The boats provide what people want most at Powell—comfort and mobility.
Where early visitors were happy with the basics like a roof, four walls, a stove and sleeping pads, new boats come with a full range of luxurious amenities such as flat-screen TVs, hot tubs and Wi-Fi. Houseboats make it possible to enjoy the luxuries of the finest hotels in one of the world’s most remote locations. After a day of swimming or fishing or exploring, the floating home makes it possible to enjoy gourmet meals, rest in air-conditioned comfort, sleep in restful luxury, watch big-screen TVs and sit in a hot tub, sipping a favorite beverage, while watching the most spectacular sunsets.
All possible, as they say, is at your fingertips. And in locations so remote they are only accessible by boat. And on private beach-front property. To best enjoy the lake, along with the floating hotel, a smaller powerboat or watercraft is recommended to fish, explore and recreate. And, while good fishing is possible throughout the lake, northern coves tend to draw the most anglers. One reason for the fishing popularity is anglers have the opportunity to fish for 10 popular game fish, the most popular being the bass family, including striped, largemouth and smallmouth.
Rent a Houseboat
The first houseboats on Lake Powell were simple, but compared to tent living on shore, they were considered palatial. Early boats came with stoves, ice boxes, folding tables and sleeping pads. As more and more amenities were added and the costs rose, people turned to renting the higher-end boats with amenities like hot tubs, wet bars and fireplaces. Often, these swank boats are the first rented out.
Aramark, the lake’s main concessionaire, offers its 75-foot Odyssey for $15,000 a week during prime months. The five-star craft sleeps 12 and has six staterooms, four baths, an eight-person hot tub, two gas grills, a fireplace, satellite TVs, a GPS system, a 24-bottle wine cooler and the finest furnishings. The 46-foot Expedition, which sleeps 10, rents for $4,320 a week and includes a full kitchen, dining and living room spaces and two decks. Boats can be rented from three to seven days and require a security deposit anywhere from $600 to $2,000.
But there are ways to spend less. Kathy McKeever of Aramark says prices drop by 25 percent in the spring and fall. There are also a limited number of boats available at 50 percent off when rented early.
Fall is actually one of the best times to visit the lake. Temperatures are cooler, waters are still warm, crowds have dwindled and the colors seem more vibrant.
Houseboats, powerboats and water toys can be rented at all marinas except Dangling Rope and Hite, and powerboat discounts are available when rented with a houseboat. For prices and reservations call 888-896-3829 or visit lakepowell.com.
There are five full service marinas at Lake Powell: Wahweap, Antelope Pointe, Dangling Rope, Bullfrog and Hall’s Crossing. All provide fuel, ice and a limited amount of groceries and supplies. Wahweap and Bullfrog offer lodging and sit-down dining.
Because of the services—lodging, restaurants, fuel and rentals—Wahweap is the most popular marina and is five miles south of the town of Page, which offers city conveniences, including lodging, shopping, supermarkets, a hospital and dining.
Bullfrog is less populated, but does have lodging, a restaurant, a company store, museum, fuel dock and service station. Hall’s Crossing has a marina store, fuel dock and family trailer units to rent. Hite has a store, service station and a few family units on shore.
Houseboats and powerboats can be rented at all marinas except Dangling Rope. Hite Marina, at the northeastern end where the Colorado River enters, offers land services only.
Leaving SLC, Wahweap is 391 miles away, Bullfrog is 300 and Hite is 290.
Lake Powell is a mecca for wakeboarding, sea kayaking and other watersports.