Many years ago, when our daughters were very young, David and I talked about taking a trip to the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell. As sometimes happens, not all the pieces fell into place and we were not able to make the trip. David did go to the Grand Canyon with his backpacking buddies a few years ago but neither one of us had visited Lake Powell. Now we can say that we have been to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon and we can also say that they did not disappoint.
On our drive to Page, Arizona, we skirted the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. These cliffs are red and tan sandstone escarpments that reach as high as 3,000 feet. As we traveled Hwy 89A beside these rock formations, we kept saying “Look over there!” because each turn was filled with scenic surprises.
The Vermillion Cliffs were not the only surprise of the day. When we first saw Lake Powell all we could say was “Wow!” Lake Powell is a deep blue lake surrounded by white limestone and red sandstone. The colors were just magnificent.
Located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Glen Canyon NRA), Lake Powell is a reservoir that was created when the Glen Canyon Dam was built on the Colorado River in 1956-1966. This Lake is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States and was named for John Wesley Powell who led an expedition to the Grand Canyon in 1869. The building of the Dam led to the flooding of Glen Canyon and that is the reason why the water comes right up to the Canyon’s cliffs and offers some spectacular views. I now understand why the Glen Canyon NRA has more than 3 million visitors every year. There are many water-related activities for all to enjoy.
Speaking of the Glen Canyon Dam, we made a stop at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center which is located at the dam. The ranger working in the Visitor Center was very nice and gave us a lot of information. While this Dam is not as large as the Grand Cooley Dam, it is an impressive sight. Also, if you are interested, they offer tours of the Dam every day. Near the Visitor Center, there is a long bridge that spans the Canyon just below the Dam. From the bridge, you can see down into Glen Canyon and also see the Dam below and Lake Powell beyond it.
In addition to Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed places in the Glen Canyon NRA. Horseshoe Bend is where the Colorado River makes a 270 degree horseshoe-shaped curve, or entrenched meander, around a sandstone rock. Horseshoe Bend is about 5 miles from the Glen Canyon Dam. To reach it you must hike about 1.5 miles round trip to the cliffs opposite the Bend. It’s an easy hike and there were tons of people making the trek to the overlook. There is a 1,000 foot drop from the edge of the cliffs down to the Colorado River. There are no security railings so you have to be very careful not to get too close to the edge of these sandstone cliffs. They are going to install protective railings this year so it will be safer for visitors.
If you want to see Horseshoe Bend from the Colorado River, you can do so. We saw people who were in speed boats, kayaks, and rafts making their way around the Bend and on down the Colorado River. We also saw some tent campers who had kayaked to the base of Horseshoe Bend.
Photographing Horseshoe Bend has always been a challenge because it is so expansive and because the light changes depending on the time of day. The good news is that you can take great photos no matter what time of day you choose to photograph it.
We found that there are only two full-service campgrounds in Page, AZ. We stayed at the Wahweap Campground which is very nice and has beautiful views of Lake Powell. It is part of the Glen Canyon Recreation area. We did discover that you can dry camp at Lone Rock in the Glen Canyon NRA so we went to check it out. The camping is right beside Lake Powell. The area is not developed and has some deep sand so you have to be careful not to get stuck in it. There are nice facilities there along with water and an RV dump station. The view just can’t be beat!
We thoroughly enjoyed our long-awaited visit to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon NRA. In fact, there are so many different things to do in the area that it left us wanting to stay longer.