Lake Powell – The Lake

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Photo Credit: Yanbing Shi

Lake Powell is a reservoir impounded by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. The lake is the second largest reservoir in the country with a total storage of 27,000,000 acre feet and the dam is the fourth highest dam in the United States with a structural height of 710 feet.

When the construction of the dam was proposed during the 1950s, a number of former environmentalists rejected the proposal. Such controversy is today referred to as the beginning of the actual international environmental movement. Unfortunately, they were not wrong at all, and native fish species have declined or disappeared at Lake Powell as it was feared.

Glen Canyon Dam has also a hydroelectric power plant with eight generating units which provide the principal portion of the electrical energy generated by the Colorado River Storage Project, using a total generating capacity of 1,042,000 kilowatts. This production is responsible for the electricity required for millions of inhabitants in the region.

The dam also provides irrigation, while the main function of the lake itself is merely recreational, and its water is drinkable and tasty, although the use of water purifiers is always recommended to visitors. The lake’s surroundings are basically geologic formations from the Ice Age that created canyons and high red walls of sandstone.

Lake Powell boasts a shoreline which is longer that the entire coast of the western United States, with over 1,900 miles (3100 km) and 96 major side canyons. Its location in southern Utah gives Lake Powell the characteristic of a finest red-rock desert-looking region. The lake comprises only 13% of the total recreation area of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which is managed by the National Park Service

Most of Lake Powell’s backcountry is still as remote and vast as it was before the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, beginning in October 1, 1956 after approval by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. At the lake it is easy to relax or have fun, however, it is important to appreciate and respect the geologic wonder at the Glen Canyon area and everywhere else.

Water activities are the most popular, but not far from picnicking, climbing, hiking and mountain biking. Lake Powell is home to large populations of striped bass, crappie, smallmouth, walleye pike, largemouth and Catfish among other fish species, particularly in the dam area. Glen Canyon Dam was voted Outstanding Engineering Achievement of the year by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Colorado River was diverted through tunnels in 1959 in order to begin the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, and the river backed up to the new Lake Powell when the dam was completed on September 13 1963. Since then, as the water level was increasing, the number of visitors as well, turning the region into a top class tourist attraction.

Lake Powell encompasses natural  points of interest, the heritage of the Navajos and the remiansof the Anasazi culture that evolved on the plateau of northeastern Arizona. Some of those areas include the Kaiparowits plateau, Defiance House ruin, Three-roof ruin, San Juan Goosenecks, Cathedral in the desert, Padre bay, Hole-in-the-Rock crossing and the Rincón.

Lake Powell is bordered by walls of sand stone, the fact makes it difficult to get to the lake, only possible through developed marinas such as Bullfrog Marina, Wahweap Marina, Antelope Point Marina, Halls Crossing Marina, Hite Marina and the marina at the Lees Ferry Sub-district.

Some other marinas are only accessible by boat, including the Dangling Rope Marina, and those located at the Rainbow Bridge National Monument and Escalante Sub-district.

Lake Powell receives approximately 3,000,000 visitors a year, that enjoy the tourist attractions including tour boating in a paddle wheel steamer, overlooking the night skies, star gazing and crystal clear.

John Bennett is adventure travel writer who current lives in Key West, and is avid diver and snorkeler.

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