In the southeast corner of Utah, Lake Powell sparkles like a jewel in the heart of canyon country. The lake is an oasis of relaxation and adventure for millions of annual visitors seeking world-class fishing, boating, water sports, beaches, canyons, and scenery. Nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline surrounds the 186-mile lake, the second largest man-made reservoir in the U.S. The lake was created in 1963 as part of the Glen Canyon Dam project, and is named for John Wesley Powell who led significant expeditions in the region during the 1860s.
The best way to see Lake Powell is from the water, whether taking a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, exploring the intriguing lake canyons by sea kayak, renting a houseboat, or launching a private boat to fish for bass, crappie, and bluegill. Six marinas provide easy lake access.
One of the most popular things to do at Lake Powell is hopping into a boat and cruising around! Whether you like being pulled on water skis or just riding along in the boat, it’s a great way to spend a day on the water.
Lake Powell is a huge body of water, so there is room for lots of boats. But be aware that speedy sport boats share the water with slow or sometimes stationary fishing boats. Stay alert and watch out for others.
Those who camp overnight from their boats must anchor on the shore. Campers often try to find a sandy beach or secluded cove to set up camp. You can refuel your boat at many of the marinas around the lake.
Fishing is another popular Lake Powell activity. Striped bass is one of the more popular species to go after, but there are a wide variety of other fish to catch too. Be sure to check current regulations for fishing licenses, take-home limits, etc.
On a hot summer day, who can resist a dip in the cool clear waters of Lake Powell? The water temperature can actually get quite warm during the summer months, topping out at over 80 degrees fahrenheit in the peak of the summer! But it’s still very refreshing compared to the summer heat out of the water.
Lake Powell offers a variety of beach areas designated for swimming, but no lifeguards are on duty.
While activities on the water are tons of fun, don’t forget about all the exploring that is available on land. Lake Powell is surrounded by some great hiking trails and secluded slot canyons.
The desert sandstone contrasted against the blue water on the lake makes for some beautiful views.
The two main marinas on the San Juan County side of Lake Powell are Halls Crossing and Hite marinas. Other popular marinas are Wahweap, Antelope Point, Dangling Rope, and Bullfrog.
A variety of services are available at Halls Crossing Marina, at the end of Highway 276. Halls Crossing has a boat launch, gas station, grocery store, campground, beach access, and regularly scheduled ferry service on the Charles Hall Ferry. The ferry provides service to Bullfrog Marina where passengers can continue on Highway 276.
Halls Crossing is named for Charles Hall, who built the ferry used by Hole-in-the-Rock pioneers in 1880. Now 35 miles upstream from its original location, Halls Crossing can be reached by taking Highway 276 from the intersection of Highway 95 near Natural Bridges National Monument.
At the northernmost end of the lake sits Hite Marina, accessible via Highway 95. Hite offers limited services such as a gas station, convenience store, restrooms, dump station, and a primitive campground. Water levels are typically low so boat launching isn’t recommended here, but the remote marina is especially popular for anglers.
Guided canyoneering, ATV and hiking tours of the area can be booked in Hite, along with a variety of other activities and services
During high water, Hite offers boat access from Canyonlands and Cataract Canyon. River rafting down Cataract Canyon from Moab to Hite is a popular and thrilling adventure. Hite Crossing Bridge is the only bridge that spans Lake Powell. The two-lane bridge signifies the lake’s upstream limit and continues Highway 95 toward Blanding.
A fun way to stay at Lake Powell is a houseboat rental! Wahweap and Bullfrog marinas offer rentals for a variety of different houseboats. There are designs for every type of visit, from large family parties to relaxing little leisure boats. The houseboats have beds, seating, a bathroom and kitchen area; it’s all you need for a multi-day Lake Powell visit.
For more information on Lake Powell houseboat rentals, check out LakePowell.com.
Of course, camping is another way to stay at the lake. There are some designated camping areas scattered around the Lake Powell region, and some campers choose to set up a tent on shore near the water.
There’s nothing more beautiful than crawling out of your tent in the morning to a glowing sunrise beaming through the canyon walls and onto the water.
As you start getting further to the east, away from the lake, you can find a variety of great lodging options in the main communities of Utah’s Canyon Country. These lodging options are great for those who would like to visit Lake Powell but would prefer to lodge in-town with more service and other attractions available.
The communities along Highway 191 such as Blanding, Bluff, and Monticello also offer a variety of dining options, shopping, and other services.
Many Lake Powell visitors also enjoy a day trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, a unique and secluded formation found in the desert to the east of the lake.
Rainbow Bridge is 290 feet high and spans 275 feet across. For reference, the U.S. Capitol building would fit beneath this towering structure! At the top of the arch, Rainbow Bridge is 42 feet wide and 33 feet thick.
More than 300,000 people around the world visit the monument each year, but Rainbow Bridge holds an especially sacred place in local Native American culture. Ancient Puebloans named the bridge Nonnezoshe, which means “rainbow turned to stone.”
While it's possible to hike to Rainbow Bridge through Navajo lands (multi-day backpacking trip- permit required), most visitors arrive by boat. The boat ride to Rainbow Bridge takes about 7-8 hrs round-trip from Wahweap Marina in Page, AZ, and includes a 1.25-mile hike from Bridge Canyon wharf.
Although located in the Navajo Nation, Rainbow Bridge National Monument is administered by the National Park Service-Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
The San Juan River offers fishing, kayaking and floating expeditions. Permits are required for private trips on the San Juan, and there are regulations to adhere to. Make sure to get your permit and plan activities accordingly.
If you’d prefer, you can go with a guide and sit back and enjoy the spectacular red rock scenery, wildlife, and archaeological sites as you float down this mostly calm river with the occasional thrill of a Class II or Class III rapid.