Boating Lake Powell

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BOATING LAKE POWELL with teenagers ranks high on the bucket list of nearly every parent in the Valley. In Part 2 of MOUNTAIN PARENT’s Lake Powell Series, Rachel Connor of Glenwood Springs shares her insights about boating Lake Powell. She gives lesser-known packing tips, and tells us why boating Lake Powell was a bonding experience for her family.

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


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, this place has 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 damming the mighty Colorado River isn’t something I reflect on without feeling conflict and even generational guilt, for now, we’ve made peace with it. We 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: Make time for exploring Page, AZ, an awesome hidden gem of a funky town.

The put-ins up north are Bull Frog Marina or Hall’s Crossing – very low key, you mostly meet people from Salt Lake City and the western slope of Colorado. 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.

TIP: Be mindful of the lower water levels the upper part of the Lake. The water level at Lake Powell changes daily. You might see a perfect campsite one day, the next day 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, you’ll find more options: Wahweap and Antelope (closed due to COVID in summer/fall 2020). Up north, you’ll find 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. 

Pack extra gas for exploring and playing without the worry of running out. That said, (expensive) gas at the marina = ice cream. Ice cream is worth its 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

FIND MORE AT MP

LAKE POWELL Planning Guide, part ONE of MP’s 3-part Series
MP Trail Map + A Sense of Place

LAKE POWELL CAR CAMPING, part THREE of MP’s 3-part Series
You don’t need a boat to explore Colorado’s closest beaches