Located along the Colorado River at the border between Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell is the second-largest manmade reservoir in the United States and serves as a major vacation and tourist destination, attracting more than three million annual visitors. Human inhabitation of the Colorado Plateau area dates back to around 11,5000 B.C. with the nomadic hunters of the Paleoindian period. By the arrival of European explorers and early settlers in the American West, descendants of Pueblo cultures populated the area, including the Fremont, Anasazi, and Paiute indigenous tribes.
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Formal surveying of the Colorado Plateau began in 1869 with the expeditions of John Wesley Powell, and by the middle part of the 20th century, the region was proposed as a site for several dams by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. As the result of campaigning against dam construction in the Echo Park area of Colorado, plans for the creation of a reservoir were moved to the Glen Canyon area of the Vermillion Cliffs. Construction of Glen Canyon Dam began in 1956, and as a result, more than 24 million acre feet of water was diverted from the Colorado, Escalante, and San Juan Rivers into the new Lake Powell reservoir.
Today, the Lake Powell area is a major tourist destination in the Western United States, drawing more than three million annual visitors to its shores and surrounding attractions. The nearby Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, established in 1972 as a joint space for recreation and natural conservation, accounts for a large portion of tourism in the area. A variety of hiking opportunities are offered within the recreation area, including two hiking trails leading to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, one of the largest natural rock bridge structures in the world. Other hiking opportunities in the Lake Powell area include the expanses of Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed canyon areas in the world, and the West Canyon area, located 25 miles north of the dam and recommended for expert hikers. The nearby Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch areas also offer natural hiking opportunities down the sides of canyon slopes, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument encompasses nearly two million acres of plateau land.
With more than 1,960 miles of shoreline woven around an irregular venous lake landscape, the waters of Lake Powell serve as a popular destination for boating and fishing excursions. Smallmouth, largemouth, and striped bass are prevalent in the reservoir, along with bluegill, catfish, crappie, northern pike, and walleye, and group fishing excursions are offered by a number of travel companies. Seven marinas are located along Lake Powell’s shorelines, including the Bullfrog Marina, Wahweap Marina, and Antelope Point Marina, which offer lodges for overnight stay. All marinas offer boat rental, space for docking, fuel stations, and repair service. Boat tours to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument are also offered, departing daily from Wahweap Marina.
Houseboating and waterskiing are permitted on the lake, and popular beaches at Warm Creek Bay, Padre Bay, Rock Creek Bay, and Halls Creek Bay offer spots for recreation. Houseboat rental options range from economy-sized boats to luxury boats equipped with satellite television and modern amenities. Those looking to rent houseboats from the marina facilities are advised to book rentals several months in advance, as demand is high during peak seasons. Several campgrounds offer tent and hookup sites, including the Wahweap Campground, the Halls Crossing Campground, and the Bullfrog Campground. Independent camping is also permitted along the lake’s shoreline, although campers are encouraged to keep informed with regard to rapidly changing weather conditions and natural hazards.
Anasazi Native American ruins can be seen at the Natural Bridges National Monument, which is designated as the world’s first International Dark Sky Park for its lack of light pollution obstruction. Historic sites within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area include the Lees Ferry Historic District, commemorating an influential 19th-century ferry service, and the Hole-in-the-Rock Road canyon route traveled by Latter Day Saints communities in the 1800s. Several visitors centers inside the recreation area offer educational exhibits and tour opportunities, including the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, which conducts group tours of the Glen Canyon Dam.
A wide variety of nature and adventure excursion packages are offered, including canoeing, kayaking, and river rafting excursions. All-terrain vehicle rentals and excursions are offered by several companies, including Red Dirt Excursions and the Kanab Tour Company. For visitors looking to experience the area’s natural beauty from the comfort of modern accommodations, several hotels and resorts are located nearby, including the Lake Powell Resort, the Ticaboo Lodge and Resort, the Defiance House Lodge, and the Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed and Breakfast.