How Did You Come Across Lake Powell in the First Place?

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
Happy New Year!

First of all, thanks Wayne for setting this site up, and sharing your experiences--what a resource! Thank you! It’s really interesting to read how all the people on this site experience Lake Powell so differently—the truth is, you all are experts in different ways, and it’s a real education for me! Now I’m not a fisherman, which might seem strange for someone who has spent three decades on that lake, which means a lot of what I read in the fishing forums is a real mystery to me, but still very interesting of course. For me it’s all about the hikes into the side canyons…

So I often wonder how people stumbled across Lake Powell in the first place. That would be an interesting thing to know. It seems some of you were born into it, or grew up with it, or discovered it on a planned trip, but not me. I came upon it by lucky accident in my 20s. It was 1986.

Of course I knew about it growing up (born in 1963), and my dad was always interested in going there, talked about it a lot. But it never happened—he was in the Air Force and we just moved around too much. Eventually we settled in southern California. Every now and then, we’d pass through Utah, a couple of short camping trips to Zion, but that was about it.

Fast forward to when I was 23 (in August 1986), living in the LA area, and a friend of mine asks if I want to go with his older brother and a couple of others on some backroads expedition in the mountains in NW Arizona near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and I jumped at that. Sounded like going to the moon! It was a great truck too—a 1964 International Travelall, no luxury, but up to the task… These were the pre-GPS days when a good topo map and a lot of good guesses were all you had to find your way, and in spite of the fact these guys were experienced in general, they didn’t know that area too well, and soon enough we were lost on some dead end cattle trail, halfway down a mountain when the switchbacks ended in nothing but a long way down… and no way to turn around… stuck… No way forward, and no way back. Nothing but a steep shadeless mountainside and a lot of sagebrush ahead…

Concern, but no panic…

Stay and wait for help to come? Nobody would ever be coming that way, we were sure. Forget that. Abandon the truck? It was about 30 miles as the crow flies to St. George. A long walk, possible, but not ideal… So we did what we had to do—I walked ahead scouting the best bushwhack “path” down, and the Travelall would follow in granny low, sliding down the hill, a few yards at a time, skidding along, tearing up whatever vegetation was in the way. Tedious and scary at the same time. At a couple of points, we even got out the shovels along a narrow ledge along a steep slope and “built up” that ledge so the truck could pass—road building on the fly.

It took 12 hours to go 3 miles down that mountain, but we finally got it down there! Likely axle damage and who knows what else, but we made it down! Of course, the guy who owned the truck felt lucky just to be driving it at all, but decided (sensibly) that we’d have to avoid the more serious 4WD road for most of the rest of the trip. Which meant improvising a new trip, away from the Grand Canyon. Now I didn’t know southern Utah much at all, but these guys did, and now we were headed in a new direction—north. And so they wanted to see the places on or near Highway 12 near Boulder and beyond, places I’d never imagined existed! Highway 12 had been paved over Boulder Mountain just the year before, but we took the Burr Trail instead—wild and unpaved then, but a good road, then down the switchbacks into Capitol Reef, no one within miles in any direction. Camped a couple of nights sleeping under the truck to avoid a monsoon thunderstorm, sharing the space with a lot of red ants.

Eventually we found out way back up to Highway 24 and then on to 95 past Hanksville, working our way down the canyon of North Wash toward Hite. I had no idea what to expect ahead, but then there it was, like a mirage—Lake Powell! I’d never seen it before, and here was my introduction… What an unexpectedly great thing to see out there after harrowing days of sweat and desert in the middle of August! The lake was full that year, and it extended far up North Wash along the empty highway. It was too good to pass up. So we pulled off on a little road cut, not even a real parking area, then scrambled down to the banks of North Wash, still far from the main channel. Not a boat in sight, no cars either on Highway 95. We just set up camp right there, down near the lake shore, and jumped right in, surrounded by the walls of North Wash. Cool, deep, clear, and refreshing beyond belief. Wow. Impossible to describe what a great thing to do after a week or so of accumulated dust and grime!

Anyway, we eventually got home without any trouble, but now I had a story to tell—what a huge impression Lake Powell had left on me. I knew I’d have to come back after that, and explore everything i could. The next year, I made another camping trip to the north end, eventually came back again; in 1991, I rented a 16-foot skiff out of Halls Crossing, and worked my way into the nearby canyons… at which point my Dad was finally convinced by my stories to rent a houseboat for a serious exploratory trip in 1992, also out of Halls. Great trip. No fishing really, but a lot of ground covered…

And so almost every year since then, I’ve been back, driving from the central coast of CA. With a couple of buddies, we have rented a lot of houseboats, from every marina (including Hite), always with a changing crew, spending a lot of time in pretty much every side canyon, many by foot…and every year, I write a long photo journal or story about the trip--hundreds of pages at this point, and interesting to read back and follow the changes. It never gets boring or old. Still seems there’s a lot to see. Last year I went on my first graffiti clean-up trip--another great way to experience the place.

So that’s my story...still unfolding...

...and I suppose I have my friend’s brother’s inability to read a topo map for all this…
 

Dworwood

Well-Known Member
Great story. Glad we didn’t have GPS at the time or we would not have the experiences and knowledge you have shared with us. Thank you.
My first trip was to page in 1964 with my parents to see the “trailer city” created for the dam builders. The next time was bullfrog in 1978 with friends on four boats for a 4 day camping/fishing trip. We made the annual trip for 6 years and we were there during the Iranian hostage crisis trying to learn what was going on with a ham radio. We strung wire between ledges so we could hear reports as they came in. Many of the same people were there on 9-11 as well for what became our fall week long house boat trip. Yes, Lake Powell is special !
 
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Bill Sampson

Well-Known Member
A friend rented a houseboat out of Halls Crossing in 1979. I was just learning how to water ski back then. We launched our ski boat at Bullfrog and took it to Hite to pick up the houseboat. Driving to the lake we heard that the Shah of Iran had died. While we were on the Lake that week we saw lots of B52 bombers overhead. Since we had no radio contact or newspapers, one of my friends wondered if we were at war with all the planes flying over. We also gassed up the boat that week at the Rainbow Bridge Marina, which was a busy and interesting place back then. There were index cards at the fuel dock for lost boats. I remember one of the dock hands saying that the boats get stolen, used for a bit, then left in a canyon somewhere. I was working a high stress job at that time and realized that Lake Powell was the perfect way for me to wind down. I have been coming back once a year for all but 5 years since then. I love this place.
 

Watty33

Well-Known Member
Good friend had a houseboat share and I finally went after a couple years of being invited for fishing and relaxing. It was a great short trip and I was "hooked". That was fall of 2009. I now have my own houseboat share and go a few times a year with friends and family. Married my wife in Kane Wash in 2015! Love Lake Powell and this site helps keep the fire burning while waiting for the next trip. Thanks to Wayne and everyone else!
 
On our way back from Arkansas (in 1963) my dad decided he wanted to see the dam being built in Page (Waite, Page was being built because of the dam?). I was four years old. The water was just beginning to back up behind the dam. Three years later we were on the lake and have not stopped going since. So many things to discover, every trip was a new adventure. I’m now retired and yes we are still going and sharing the lake with family and friends. We even have purchased a second home in Page to leave our boat there and have a comfortable base to explore (Nothing big, just a manufacturered home off of Elk Road).
 

Ken

Well-Known Member
I was on my first trip exploring the southwest in 2005. I was recently divorced, lived in CT, and had planned a trip based on some 'remote' areas that looked promising for photography. I flew into Vegas, rented a Durango (piece of crap!), and headed to St. George, Utah. I was amazed at the scenery. Quite a change from the east coast! I took the 90 mile or so dirt road past Mt. Trumball to Toroweap (on the north side of the Grand Canyon). After 2 days of exploring, I headed to the north rim. A ranger warned me that some of the forest roads I was planning on traveling were closed due to fires. He asked if I was going to Coyote Buttes (The Wave). I'd never heard of it, so he explained the lottery process that took place at the Paria ranger station (at the time).

After spending a night at Point Sublime I headed for Paria via House Rock Valley Road, making it just in time for the lottery. I was successful for the next day's permit for The Wave! I explored a little of the area, and decided to head to the nearest town. I had a choice of Kanab, UT or Page AZ. I decided to head to Page. I'd never heard of it before, and I'd never heard of Lake Powell, either :). So that was my first glimpse of Lake Powell. I was fascinated by the scenery, history, topology, geology, and pretty much everything else, on the entire trip. But the side trip to Page (where I had my first ever jack in the box burger :) ), expanded my areas to research for future trips. .

I had 7 trips back to the 'area' between 2005 and 2016. These trips were always 'around', but never to, lake Powell. I explored the canyons and ruins of Cedar Mesa, traveled from Price, Utah to the Disneyland some call Moab (way too many people), and traveled around some of the Grand Staircase NM. Throw in a few successful, and failed, attempts at finding obscure rock art panels and cliff dwellings, and I finally got on the water of Lake Powell in March of 2016. This was just a quick 2 hour boat rental to do a little sightseeing up Navajo Canyon. Amazing!!

At the beginning of this story I lived in CT and enjoyed bass fishing. I loved throwing the frog across the Lilly pads! No more frogging at these crazy lakes where the water drastically goes up and down! I took a job transfer to Albuquerque at the end of 2013, and after living in the desert for awhile, decided that buying a boat would be a good idea :). I fished Elephant Butte in NM starting in 2016. I don't remember exactly how, but I stumbled upon this website that year, and decided a spring trip in 2017 would be worth a try. My father was visiting in April, 2017. We loaded up the boat, traveled to Page, rented a house, and started an amazing fishing trip. Anchovies as bait? Sure, we'll try anything once :). A fish cleaning station? Amazing! People sharing their fishing spots??? UNHEARD OF!!!! Tour boats that leave a wake bigger than an aircraft carrier? Let's not do that again! lol

We've been back every year since. Number 4 coming up in May. I've made a few quick trips on my own in between the annual ones.

So I'm a relative newcomer to fishing Lake Powell. Thanks for this website, and thanks to all that contribute!
 

Cookie

Well-Known Member
It was 1983, I was 15 years old. My Dad got our camping group excited to go on a Houseboat trip to Lake Powell. Living in So Cal, I had never even been on the Colorado River in any compacity and we didn't even own a boat. To this day, not sure what drove him to do this trip. We rented a 48' houseboat out of Hite. Took two days to get there, a few blow outs on this boat/trailer we borrowed, and then we drove past the overlook and couldn't believe our eyes. Once we got to Hite (getting houseboat the next morning), 5 or 6 of us teenagers same across the lake to the far wall and back, remember this was at full pool (August 1983). As a parent, I am not sure I would have let my kids do that, we had no vest on our anything.

Things I remember about the trip, lot's of driftwood, no beaches, learned to waterski, and caught lots of Catfish. I think we went as far south as Oak Canyon?

After that year we made a houseboat trip every other year for the next ten years (two week trips out of Bullfrog). Bought into a shared ownership in 2004, then another boat in 2011. Currently I am taking a break from the lake, but will be back.
 

Squirrel

Well-Known Member
I too am from The Nutmeg State, CT. Spent most ALL of my young life on Long Island Sound or under numerous boats sanding, caulking and painting the underside of 3 different 30+ foot boats we (my father) owned in Bridgeport Harbor.
I moved to Colorado in 1976. My first trip to Powell was in 1982 with a group of employees of the Schindler Elevator Co. out of Denver. My buddy Ray Mayer was the boss and he took his father and 8 or so of his employees to Powell houseboat trip. We met at Bullfrog to get the houseboat. Picked up the 3rd pleasure boat at Halls with 40 cases of beer. We proceeded to Iceberg Canyon and found a nice spot in one of the side cuts on the left side. Ray's father had a rule, you must be on the rear deck of the houseboat at 4:00 P.M. every day for Manhattans. Fishin' was fun but the scenery is what hooked me for life. Had to run to Wahweap for more beer after 5 days.
I keep a 20' boat and a 24' RV at Offshore. I make 6 or more trips to the lake every year from Evergreen, Colorado. I just can't get enough of Powell. Ray is now a permanant resident of Lake Powell. RIP Ray. Sq
 

birdsnest

Well-Known Member
I'm afraid to start cause it would be a book. Working on the lake for 10 years will do that.. Starting going to the lake in 1971 but only for swimming and diving as it was in the middle of my trips from Prescott Az. to Provo Utah. Nice way to wash the dust off. Didn't really start getting to know the lake until 1996 when I started as a houseboat mechanic for the rental houseboat fleet at Stateline. After that it was off the hook for me and the lake. One of my perks was houseboats for $23 a day which was the going rate for insurance. I invited all my musician friends and we would have live music for a week. I jokingly would tell everyone that the only reason I invited everyone was because they had to let me play my harmonica with the band. It got to the point that I had 3 59' sumerset houseboats sidetied when leaving the dock. The rule was that I had to be in control of the houseboats so I just drove the center one.. What a blast those days were. Somehow it's easy to forget all the terrible storms and late nights coming back in the dark.
 

Tiff Mapel

Well-Known Member
Love this thread! My parents took me and my siblings to Powell sometime in the mid-80s, back in the full-pool days, and we had no idea. We had a 22-foot Catalina sailboat that we used to launch out of Hite. We would actually sail it if the wind came up. ;) We always went Memorial Day weekend, and it was cold, or cooler. I think 1989 was the year we last went with family, and I didn't go again until after college back in 1994 with a bunch of friends on a brown 50-foot rental Boatel out of Halls Crossing during a lovely September week. Imagine my surprise at discovering Powell all over again, and this time the water was much warmer! We were hooked! We came every year from then on. Then I discovered the Trash Tracker in 2002, and have done that every year (except 2006 when my daughter was born). Some friends and I bought the WWDotCalm back in August of 2009. We had it until August of 2018, when we sold it, and then bought into our current boat, a nice Myacht that we are still on. Looking forward to many more adventures in this new decade! :)
 

Havalina

Well-Known Member
I have had multiple traumatic brain injuries and fishing is how I maintain my sanity. Where I lived at the time, they pulled the docks and shut the gates on Halloween. I was searching for somewhere to fish with in 10 hours of me. Best google search of my life. The result, I have been able to spend a week or a month from November to May, for the last four years. The lake continues to grow on me more and more. It is a true treasure.
 

Zach

Member
My introduction to Lake Powell is similar to others, my parents took my two brothers and I for the first time in the mid to late 80's. We took maybe 4-6 trips over the years as we balanced out other fun to include backpacking the Wind River Range in WY. My obsession was set by those initial LP trips!
I recall one trip out of Hite, meeting a uncle and his family from Cortez. We had my grandparents 18ft Beechcraft loaded with camping gear, provisions and 9 people and headed down lake for the week. Swimming, skiing, tubing and fishing! So much fish catching that my dad would stand in the middle of the boat, spinning around, unhooking 5 poles as we continued to drop our hook and reel in another fish before hitting bottom, this probably continued for 2+ hours!
I've been able to share my obsession with my wife and two daughters, while creating memories of our own. We are fortunate to live in Grand Junction and have access to the North end. So many memories of Lake Powell, it's hard to consolidate it into a simple post. I hope for many more experiences in such a fine place in the future! Thanks Wayne and fellow community for such a great site and fellowship!!
 
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