Magnificent Lake Powell
will move over the water
such speed we will forget
what we have never known."
Excerpt of Poem, "Glen Canyon on the
As Lake Powell
filled, those that knew Glen Canyon and all its wonders watched
in sadness as they saw beautiful canyons and wildlife habitats
disappear. But some came to realize, as did Art Greene, an
original Glen Canyon tour owner, that what was lost was replaced
by perhaps greater beauty, and more importantly, a beauty now
easily accessible and shared by many in contrast to the rugged
Glen Canyon. Greene expressed this insight in a 1965 letter to
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, "From a fellow who with a tear in
his eye, and a hurt in his heart saw Sentinel rock, Outlaw Cave,
the Incendiary Urn, Music Temple and others slowly covered by
Lake Powell. From a fellow who now sees that where one monument
was covered, 10 more were brought into view. Where in the 40's
& 50's, 150 people was considered a good year. Where, now in
one week that many people share this beauty with us, where folks
can bring their own boats now on beautiful Lake Powell (where
very few dared as a river). …I feel sure Lake Powell is destined
to be one of the outstanding, recreation areas in the
world." And that it has;
since the creation of the lake, many have marveled at its
wonders. Lake Powell, a massive lake spreading across two states,
was created by a large manmade dam, and is full of history as
well as current controversies.
Eisenhower was president at the time that Lake Powell was
created. He initiated the first blast to start the creation of
Glen Canyon Dam on October 15, 1956. This dam contained enough
concrete to make a four lane highway from Phoenix, Arizona to
Chicago, Illinois, and stood a towering 710 feet high from the
canyon floor. Once the dam had
been completed in 1963, what once used to be a large beautiful
canyon was now filling up with water. It took 14 years once the
dam was finished to fill the lake, which was fed by the Colorado
and San Juan rivers. The created Lake Powell stretches 186 miles
and has almost 2000 miles of shoreline, and at full capacity the
lake encompasses 161,000 acres of water making it the second
largest reservoir in the U.S. This enormous lake
filled the canyons, but opened the way to easy access and viewing
of such wonders as Rainbow Bridge (a national monument and the
world's largest natural bridge now visited by about 300,000
people a year) and the San Juan
goosenecks (the San Juan Goosenecks are part of the Colorado
river where the river sharply snakes around towering carved
At full capacity
the lake sits at an elevation of 3700 feet, although the current
water level of Lake Powell is approximately 3600 feet above sea
level. In 2004, Lake
Powell had dropped to its lowest point in history, since then it
has been going up. Some exciting news for many boaters on Powell
is that the famous "Castle Rock Cut" will be open sometime in
June! The Castle Rock Cut is a body of land that divides the
lower section of the lake from the upper section of the lake.
When Castle Rock Cut is finally navigable for boaters, it will
save 12 miles of having to navigate through a windy, snaky canyon
to get to the upper section of the lake from the lower section.
The water level must be at a height of 3610 feet for the two
sides of the lake to touch, as of now it sits only 10 feet away
from that checkpoint. This will be the first time Castle Rock Cut
will be open in the past 5 years.
is exciting news going on for Lake Powell, such as Castle Rock
Cut perhaps opening soon, there is also some news that is not so
great. This includes the threat of Quagga mussels. A Quagga
mussel is a type of invasive mussel, commonly known as a Zebra
mussel, named for the stripes on its shell. These Zebra mussels
are brought in from boats coming from lakes infected with these
mussels. When these Zebra mussels infect a lake, they form thick
mats which can get almost two feet thick and contain hundreds and
even thousands of mussels. If the mussels were to enter Lake
Powell, it would cause dramatic changes to the eco-system, and in
most cases compromises sport fishing. This happens because each
little Zebra mussel, which grows to about 1.5", is like mini
filters for the lake, which is not good. A Zebra mussel filters
out algae and small zoo plankton, which are what the fish
commonly feed off of. The way to keep Lake Powell uninfected is
to simply clean your boat thoroughly and inspect it yourself, or
have it inspected to ensure that there are no mussels on
controversy, one that started in 1996 but continues today, is the
suggestion by the Sierra Club and the Glen Canyon Institute to
drain Lake Powell and to possibly remove the Glen Canyon Dam
forever. Their belief is that the lake has upset the ecosystem
and that things should return back to the pre-dam condition.
Those opposed to this idea point out Lake Powell's benefits
including the tourist economy (2.5 million people visit Lake
Powell every year); its beauty; its provision of electricity,
irrigation, and drinking water; and the flood control provided by
the dam. The lake generates four hundred million dollars to the
local and regional economies. Also, if Lake Powell were to be
drained, it would leave a "bathtub-ring" around the canyon for at
least a decade. For the surrounding towns, such as Page, Arizona,
the air quality would be absolutely horrible whenever the wind
kicked up. These are just two of the many examples of the
problems that would rise if Lake Powell was to be drained.
Lake Powell may
have replaced the beautiful, rugged Glen Canyon and its
monuments, but it has brought to many more people, many more
beautiful sights such as Rainbow Bridge. And although there are
controversies surrounding Lake Powell, the lake has much to
offer. Its towering canyons, crystal blue water, sandy beaches
and great recreation opportunities are worthy of our visit and of
a visit by our kids, and our kids' kids; and worthy of the
preservation of its history.
Abbott, Lon and Terri Cook. Geology Underfoot
in Northern Arizona. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing
Crampton, C. Gregory. Ghosts of Glen Canyon:
History Beneath Lake Powell. St. George: Publishers Place,
Farmer, Jared. Glen Canyon Dammed: Inventing
Lake Powell and the Canyon Country. Tucson: University of
Arizona Press, 1999.
Friends of Lake Powell Staff. "History of Lake
Powell." www.lakepowell.org. 1999. Friends of Lake
Powell, Inc. 12 May 2008.
U.S Bureau of Reclamation. "Lake Powell Water
Database." 22 May 2008. Lakepowell.water-data.com Summit
Technologies, Inc. 23 May 2008.
Wikipedia. "Lake Powell." www.Wikipedia.org. 8 May 2008. Wikipedia. 12
National Park Service. "Rainbow Bridge." www.nps.gov May 2008. U.S. Department
of the Interior. 23 May 2008.
 Farmer, Jared. Glen
Canyon Dammed: Inventing Lake Powell and the Canyon
Country. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999. Pg.
164 and 165.
 Abbott, Lon and Terri
Cook. Geology Underfoot in Northern Arizona.
Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2007. Pg.