Lake Powell draws nearly 3 million visitors each year. The second largest man made reservoir in the county starts in Page, Arizona and stretches north approximately 200 miles to Hite, Utah. Lake Powell was the third pit stop on our Betty and Roxie’s Desert Vacation in 2018.
One of Lake Powell’s biggest gifts is it’s diversity. If you want to get lost and disconnect (and depending on your selection, you will be disconnected from all cell service/WiFi), you can! If you want to be apart of the action, you can! It is amazing how a place with so many visitors checks so many boxes for so many different people.
Lake Powell was created when the Glen Canyon dam was built and the Glen Canyon was flooded. The result was a beautiful “lake” with nearly two thousand miles of shore. I first visited the northern end of Lake Powell in my early twenties but this was the first trip to the southern end.
We started our morning off in Mesa Verde National Park and headed southwest on 491 to Highway 161. From point A (Mesa Verde National Park) to Point B (Wahweap Campground) would have been a 3 1/2 hour drive but we decided to take a side trip through Monument Valley by veering north on highway 191 to highway 163. We spent time grabbing photos with the monuments. Meeghan even took a Forest Gump run to the delight of everyone!
We arrived in Page, AZ in the early afternoon. Wahweap Campground is one of those places that would not confirm an actual site but would guarantee we had a spot available. Traveling as a group one of the things we appreciate is when we can be together. We actually got lucky at Wahweap; Betty and Roxie were right next to each other and Gary (Roxie’s father-in-law) was just a few spaces away.
A visit to Page would not be complete without a side trip to Horeshoe Bend. Part of the Glen Canyon Recreational Area, this bend in the Colorado River has become an iconic representation of the Southwest.
We started our hike to Horseshoe Bend early. From the parking lot to the observation area, the hike is relatively short. However, it is sandy and steep! Just remember what goes down must come up. The other obstacle one must be aware when visiting Horseshoe Bend is the tourist.
It is amazing how many people navigate this space at once. Everyone is trying to get the best photo they can of the bend and that often takes them very close to the edge. There can be a lot of pushing and bumping and all of that scares this momma! So, be alert. As this is another place that photographers want to get the best picture, try to avoid the peak moments (sunrise and sunset).
We found a less crowded spot to sit and just soak it in. None of us were in a hurry to start the hike up, so we just enjoyed the moment. When we slowed down we noticed a base camp at the bottom, right next to the river. We also noticed boats on the river. They were so tiny it would have been easy to overlook.
Just to be clear, the hike up from the observation area is no joke. It is a workout! I would encourage you to go slow, stop and rest when you can. Slow and steady will win this race.
Antelope Canyon Tours
As Meeghan and I planned this Desert Vacation, we were inspired by two sources. First my Pinterest obsession and second, Meeghan’s sister had visited this area previously and had made recommendations. Antelope Canyon was on both of our bucket list.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in a dry river bed. Water rushed through the sandstone and carved out the slot canyon. Light breaks through the canyon and dances inside the canyon. I am sure some of you have heard of Phantom, a famous photo captured by Peter Lik and sold for 6.5 million dollars. Antelope Canyon is a photographers dream.
There are two tours: the upper and the lower. We selected the upper as it was easier to access with no climbing and offered stable pathways. Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land and requires a guided escort. We purchased tickets through Antelope Canyon Tours. The tour cost less than $50 per person. Our guide did everything he could to ensure that we left the canyon with our own prize winning photos. (Well, I mean I am not selling any photo for a million dollars but my photos are worth of posting to social media.) He carefully pointed out the formations and even took my camera and captured the shot when I struggled to “see it.” I mean,
The upper canyon is a loop. You walk through and turn around and walk back. We were informed that we were suppose to take all the photos we wanted on our way down but on the way back we were to yield to the new group. As we reached the turn around part, we joined another tour group that we learned was lead by the brother of our tour group. The two brothers treated us to a Navajo song.
If you are interested in Antelope Canyon here are few pro tips:
- The mid-day tour is the most expensive tour. This is when the sun is directly above the canyon and the most light gets in. This tour is the photographers dream. So, unless you are a serious photographer, pick a different tour and save yourself the money.
- There is no bathrooms in the canyons. Plan ahead.
- Backpacks are not allowed. Backpacks are big and bulky and can rub against the sand walls. This is same for camera equipment.
- The entire canyon is made of sand. The air is full of sand. You will be breathing in sand! If you have asthma or other breathing challenges or just don’t want to breath sand, bring a scarf or mask to block the sand.
Lake Powell/Wahweap Campground
A visit to this area would be amiss without some time spent enjoying this beautiful lake. Meeghan and Jeremy wanted to rent jet ski’s but Wahweap Marina’s hours were very limited. However, during the ride to/from the Antelope Canyon tour Meeghan had the idea to look for jet ski rentals in Page vs at Lake Powell. They got lucky and found H2O Zone, who rented them a jet ski with an extremely flexible rental period.
So, after a day of exploring, we all made our way down to the waters edge. The summer weather in Page is hot and the water was a welcome treat and a nice way to end the day. It was very clear to us that the water was significantly lower during our visit than “normal”. The lake provides a beautiful backdrop to water sports. The shore line provides ample hiking opportunities. If your time allows, there are chartered boat tours or houseboats to rent. We did not have the time, but if I were to go again, I would allow one whole day to do the chartered boat tour to Rainbow Bridge.
There are two aspects of the campground that I feel I should give you a heads up about. One, there is a lot of RV rentals and boat rentals. I am not sure why but we found that the rentals throw away things they no longer need. One morning, Wayne was taking our trash to the dumpster and he found a portable power washer. It was not broken, it was not brand new but it was pretty new. So he saved it from the dumpster and now we have a power washer.
The second thing about the campground is: don’t go out at night. Or if you do, don’t turn on a light. There are these things called sewer roaches. They are huge. And they come out at night and are every where. GROSS!!! I wish I could undo my knowledge and memory of them but I can’t. So, take my word and just don’t go out at night. While I can’t unsee the roaches that come out at night, I can tell you, I was most worried about them finding a way into our trailer. But, the good news, we never saw any evidence of them after we left Wahweap.
Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam
The last thing we before leaving town was visit the Carl Hayden Visitor Center. I wish we had more time to spend because for $5, we could have signed up for the tour of the dam. Instead we learned about how the dam was made. We even spoke to staff who did confirm that the lake is lower than normal. Lake Mead sends water to California and due to their drought Lake Mead has been tapped hard. So to keep up with the need, Lake Powell is sending water to Lake Mead. They explained that Hite Marina (which is the area I first visited) has been closed due to shrinking of the lake.
Being from the Midwest, I feel oblivious to water shortage concerns. I know I occasionally see stories on the world news but it is easy for me to turn a blind eye. But, visiting Lake Powell and chatting with the rangers, and seeing first hand how this lake that I care about is shrinking really hit me hard.
It is in this mindset, with a newly acquired Junior Ranger badge pinned to my daughters shirt, that we bid farewell to Page AZ while thinking about conservation and how important it is to us all. I would love for my children’s children to have the opportunity to visit this beautiful place but if we are not careful, it will be nothing more than a pond.