A Guide to Camping Lake Powell With Boats

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Exploring Lake Powell by boat opens up a whole new world of splendid isolation and secret campsites.

In [Part 3] of this Lake Powell Series, Rachel Connor of Glenwood Springs, CO shares her insights about boat-camping at Lake Powell with teenagers. Mountain Parent asked Rachel to share some lesser-known packing tips and why she finds boating at Lake Powell to be such a special bonding experience with her family.

Let’s start with the most important question. Why is boating at Lake Powell one of your favorite family trips?

I can actually remember that a trip to Lake Powell nearly twenty years ago was when I truly fell in love with my husband! Ever since it’s carried a sense of magic for me. The light, the breeze, the water and the great expanse of the desert. It is an oasis in a desolate place. While the history of damning the mighty Colorado isn’t something that I reflect on without feeling conflict and even generational guilt, for now, we’ve made peace with what is and marvel at the clear blue water and endless coves.

As a mother of a 12 year-old boy and a 14 year-old girl, I find my day-to-day world has a lot of tween-age drama. No thanks. Our trips to Lake Powell somehow shut that all down and the drama and anxt subside, replaced by laughs and moments of calm. It is a beautiful place that allows you to disconnect and reconnect all at the same time. Having your kids all to yourself, while everyone in the family is having fun, relaxing and happy allows for some pretty cool memories. It’s wonderful!

What are the differences between the upper and lower parts of Lake Powell and where do you like to go?

The lower part of the lake towards Glen Canyon Damn (near Page, AZ) is an 8 hour drive from the Roaring Fork Valley.  It’s far. However, it has a lot to offer if you are willing to explore. The lower section of the lake is more diverse in terms of landscapes… tight canyons, desert sheep, wide-open spaces, beaches that you can discover while cruising in your boat or share with others while car camping. There are more tourists (and I’m talking Tourists, with a capital T – Europeans, Asians and many foreigners that have never seen a landscape like this. There are a lot of people from Phoenix and Las Vegas too. 

TIP: Page, AZ is an awesome hidden gem of a funky town… you just need time to explore it.

The put-ins up north are Bull Frog Marina or Hall’s Crossing. They are very low key and you meet people from Salt Lake City and the western slope of Colorado mostly. The landscape is similar, but it takes more time, more gas and more patience on the lake to get to all the cool places in this area. Regardless, we find that it is SO WORTH IT to travel to the upper section of Lake Powell.

TIP: Be mindful of the lower water levels the further towards the north/ upper part of the Lake. The water level at Lake Powell changes daily. You might see a perfect campsite one day, and the next it is covered in water.

Do you have to stick to the big marinas to put-in, or are there other access points and boat ramps?

There are five marinas on Lake Powell, four of them with launch ramps. You really need to stick to the known marinas and ramps to put-in. Down south, there are more options: Wahweap and Antelope. Antelope is closed due to COVID this summer. Up north, the options are Bullfrog Marina and Hall’s Crossing.

Check out the latest on the ramps and marinas at the NPS site.

Let’s talk navigation . . .

Get a map, understand where the channel is and EXPLORE!  You cannot get lost in Powell. There are enough people that are always willing to lend a hand that you can wave down and ask. Everyone is happy at Powell (if the weather is nice). How could you not be?  

You need to pay attention, ALWAYS.

TIP: When it’s shallow, you typically can see the change in color under the water. It turns lighter green than the darker channel. Most boaters will use a milk jug or something similar tied to the rocks to mark them and to help protect others. Again, it is just a matter of paying attention.   

Any items to pack that we might not think of?

The item I never want to forget is something kind of silly: Clamps! Clamps, you know, the things you use in a woodshop to glue wood together. The sun and wind at Lake Powell are intense. You need shade from the minute you wake up until the minute the sun disappears. You need to be able to hang your wet towels vertically off your boat for shade, your shade tent, the side of your houseboat and you need something strong… hence the clamp. 

You also need extra gas so you can explore and play and not be worried you’ll run out. That being said, going to the marina for (expensive) gas means you can enjoy ice cream. Ice cream is worth it’s weight in gold on a multi-day boat camping trip and our kids love, love, love going to the marina.

Boat rental resources

Don’t own a boat? Here are some resources for renting a boat at Lake Powell. It is definitely a splurge and prices for something 17′ or longer that you can camp with start around $340/day. Other options include renting jet skis and wave runners or kayaks, just to get further out from shore for the day.

Lake Powell Marina rentals

Powell Adventure Rentals

Canyon Boat Rentals

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