Rediscovering Lake Powell

Lake's rising creates dose of excitement

Published: Thursday, Aug. 11 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

John Dutson of Colorado goes airborne while wake-boarding at Lake Powell recently. Higher water levels have made for larger bays and deeper canyons.

Ray Grass, Deseret Morning News

BULLFROG — The prediction, coming way last January, was that the level of Lake Powell would rise this summer, something it hadn't done, with any significance, for five years.

Even going back that far, based simply on predictions, there was a sense of a new dawn rising at the lake ... and it has — risen, that is.

The level of Lake Powell rose 53 feet this year. From its peak, it has dropped two feet.

The rising of the lake has, in fact, made a big difference, not only in the lake itself but also the attitude of those working there and visiting.

It's like a ski resort getting its first snow and the guarantee that it would be opening for the season. Attitudes change. Only in this case, it was the knowledge that the lake is, once again, filling.

The response from those visiting the lake is that the rising water has given the lake a new look, "some new coves, new beaches, new areas to explore," said one Arizona visitor as he waited at the fuel dock at Bullfrog.

"People are coming here and telling us they are rediscovering the lake ... seeing things they haven't seen for a few years. The rising water brought a lot of things back to the surface," said Kerry Mystrom, boat rental manager at the lake.

"The rising water has also expanded the lake. It's a bigger lake now. The bays are bigger and the canyons longer, offering more opportunity to explore. Like I said, people are rediscovering the lake."

Steve Ward, public relations director, said he saw new interest shown in the lake going back to the first of the years, "at some of the boat shows I attended around the country.

"People would come up and ask about the anticipated rise in the lake, and about the ramps. Launching boats late in the summer last year was a problem, and they wanted to know if it would be better this year — and it is."

With the exception of Hite, all of the ramps on the lake are open and able to accommodate even the largest boat.

In fact, many boaters launching and retrieving on the two ramps at Bullfrog and the single ramp at Halls Crossing said their decision to visit — and in some cases revisit the lake this year — was based on better ramp accessibility.

As much as anything, however, the rising water has changed the look of Lake Powell. As noted, the bays are bigger and the canyons deeper, and new beach areas can be reached now.

"There's simply more room to move about," explained Ward.

All of this has resulted in higher visitation numbers this summer.

"We're not back to our season highs we had back before the drought, back in 1999, but this is definitely the best year in the past three," he added. "A lot of people have told me they feel it's time to go back (to Lake Powell)."

When the lake was at its high-water mark, it flowed under Rainbow Bridge National Monument.

Currently, from the boat dock in Bridge Canyon, it is a two-mile hike to the observation area. Because of the extreme heat and the lack of shade and water, park rangers recommend visitors wait until temperatures cool in the fall before taking the hike.

Because of the number of serious injuries resulting from cliff jumping, the National Park Service has introduced new regulations this summer.

It is now illegal to jump or dive off any structure, be it a cliff or boat, at a height greater than 15 feet.