Lake Powell Beaches and Hiking Guide Project - looking for help...

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
I might have mentioned in passing on some other thread that I’ve been working on a pretty ambitious Lake Powell project having to do with beaches and hiking. Well, I just want to bring anyone who is interested up to speed, and just what it is I'm up to.

In a nutshell, what I’m doing is creating a comprehensive guide that describes all the best houseboat camping sites on the lake—and here’s the hard part—at multiple lake levels. The other part of the project is to describe which canyons have the best (or any) hiking potential, but more importantly, how accessible are the ends of the canyons at different lake levels, and to what kind of boats.

There are a lot of great guides out there, particularly Michael Kelsey’s book. That is probably the premier source of hiking information for the lake. I’m not trying to do the same thing. What Kelsey’s book does not really do is describe how difficult boating access might be to reach these hikes, and at what lake levels such hikes might be best. For example, Fiftymile Canyon has a very narrow window through which it’s possible to enjoy a great hike past the end of the lake. If the water is too low (say, below 3605), all boats will be blocked by a giant sandbar about 0.8 miles from the Escalante. But if it’s too high (say, 3670 or more), then even small boats may get pinched out between canyon walls before reaching the end. But in the sweet spot between 3610-3630, you’ve got access to one of the coolest grotto semi-slot canyons on the lake.

That’s the kind of information I’m trying to compile.

Similarly, some epic campsites become considerably less epic at lower (or higher) lake levels. For example, a great cave-grotto houseboat campsite in Davis Gulch goes high and dry below 3603; above 3635, that same site disappears altogether underwater. Some great beach sites in Llewelyn Gulch are similarly challenged at lower levels. But in some cases, low water reveals some real gems. When finished, I’ll include maps and photos to illustrate key findings. I’ll also describe point-to-point boating distances between the different canyons (accounting for shortcuts at higher water levels) and other key locations on the lake, plus the average time it takes to travel. This would help calculate things like typical gas consumption. And of course, I’d want to share my own past observations and notes taken at the time I visited any of these places, which relate to all sorts of other issues about being on the lake, including food, bugs, weather, anchoring issues, you name it.

I’ve been working on this project for a couple of years already. It’s a daunting task. My main sources are my own extensive notes, journals and photos from the past 30 years, augmented by GoogleEarth and a few other online sources. So far, I’ve put together a very rough and incomplete version that is already over 300 pages. I say incomplete, because there are several parts of the lake I just haven’t spent that much time in, and so my firsthand knowledge isn’t that great. These would include Last Chance, Navajo Canyon, Rock Creek, and much of the San Juan arm.

So what I’m looking for, if anyone wants to help, are descriptions of past campsites, including specific locations and dates (so I can correlate to a lake level), plus any photos you’d be willing to share—especially about places in the San Juan, Last Chance, or Rock Creek—but really anywhere. Similarly, any experiences hiking, with a specific eye to the difficulty of boating access to the ends of canyons or small coves that might provide access. And finally, any recent experiences in the everchanging mudflats/log soup at the northern end of the lake, and how that has affected canyon access.

When I’m finished, I’ll release it somehow, but at this point I’m still undecided about the best way to get the information out. As a book? Online? Both? In small pieces? As one large volume?

All I know is this: for anyone willing to provide any helpful information or photos, I’ll give full credit, and I’d be happy to share what I come up with once it’s finished. Not sure exactly how soon that will be, but I won’t forget when the time comes. You all are spectacularly knowledgeable, a great resource from whom I’ve already learned a ton in the few years I’ve been following this site. Thank you!!

If you’re reluctant to share special sites or secret places, I totally get that. Don’t send me anything. I’m not sure I want to share mine either, but on the whole, I think this could be a unique resource if presented the right way. But if you do want to share, you can either post to this thread, or if you want it to be more confidential, just send me a private message.

Thanks again!

John Rickenbach
 

powellobsessed

Well-Known Member
Great project ! I have camped in halls creek for many years and I will be Very mindful This season and water levels to provide any information I can give. Halls creek is littered with great beach sites for all vessels. The best ones were when we were at full pool when I was a kid in the 80’s. Good luck in this project !
 

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
Thanks Dougie! Well, I’d say that Escalante discussion was a decent preview, except add photos, aerials, and details about boating access for hikes for different lake levels...

...kind of obsessed...
 

Dougie

Active Member
JFR: About 2-3 years ago I ran across a very detailed website which described Lake Powell canyons and hikes in great detail from over 20 years of visits. The author made some hikes 3 and 4 times and updated by the year he made them. Sadly, I failed to bookmark it. Are you aware of this? Off the wall question: was that you? For example, I remember reading how he hiked over the top from Iceberg to the San Juan, around and up to the top of the Rincon, up to Stevens Arch, down from Hole in the Rock road to Reflection Canyon, up West and Labyrinth, Smith Fork narrows--everywhere. He used a very spare format, giving very precise elevations and distances. I can't remember whether the site listed places either in an A-Z format or (more likely) if it went by lake mileage. If you aren't familiar with it, I will do some digging.
 

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
JFR: About 2-3 years ago I ran across a very detailed website which described Lake Powell canyons and hikes in great detail from over 20 years of visits. The author made some hikes 3 and 4 times and updated by the year he made them. Sadly, I failed to bookmark it. Are you aware of this? Off the wall question: was that you? For example, I remember reading how he hiked over the top from Iceberg to the San Juan, around and up to the top of the Rincon, up to Stevens Arch, down from Hole in the Rock road to Reflection Canyon, up West and Labyrinth, Smith Fork narrows--everywhere. He used a very spare format, giving very precise elevations and distances. I can't remember whether the site listed places either in an A-Z format or (more likely) if it went by lake mileage. If you aren't familiar with it, I will do some digging.
Dougie: That site sounds familiar, but it wasn't me. It does sound pretty interesting though, and I'd be curious to find that and read it. Thanks for the tip. If you find the site let me know. (I'm especially curious about the trip from Iceberg to the San Juan.) The only Powell-related website I'm connected with other than this one is on TripAdvisor, where I answer a lot of the questions people have who want to travel to the lake. I use the same name in that one, and have been on that for maybe 10 years. And while I do talk about a lot of the places I've been, it's not organized in the way you describe.
 

Dougie

Active Member
OK. I found it. It's www.silgro.com where the guy has a treasure trove of freestyle flows of consciousness regarding his many trips and hikes up and out from the main channel. He's spent a lot of time up on Gray Mesa along the pioneer route out of Cottonwood heading east towards the Halls Creek Road running just north of Cha in the San Juan drainage. This section on "neat hikes" at Lake Powell runs 25+ pages of single-space notes. It ends with a thrilling story of a "dive" under Gregory Arch in FiftyMile in a kayak with several historical photos. There is other article on houseboat usage that is nearly as long, but has nothing to do with hiking. There is another link describing this area which is a .pdf accessed on www.hirf.org called "Hole in the Rock Train Lake Canyon-Cottonwood Canyon. You'll spend an entire day researching these sites.
 

Dougie

Active Member
I always watch the River Flow guage at Cisco. USGS Current Conditions for USGS 09180500 COLORADO RIVER NEAR CISCO, UT to see what's coming downstream.

Until a week ago the river volume was running well under the 25th percentile, maybe 7500 - 8000 CFS. The warm weather this week doubled the flow to 15,000 which is still 20% below the 101 year median. BOTTOM LINE: This was always going to be a meager water year, but it bordered on the "terrible" until Flaming Gorge started dumping 8000 CFS into the Green just over Memorial Day weekend.

So between increased melting in upper CO drainage, and a kick-start from Flaming Gorge, we broke over the 30,000 inflow mark at Powell about June 4. It's a 100-mile trip from Cisco so at 2.5 mph the water flows 2 days before it hits the lake at the Dirty Devil Bridge.

With current dam releases and at current lake levels, the 30,000 inflow grows the lake about 5-6 inches a day. Let's see how long we can keep this going! My bet is that we barely clear 3610 and then level off for the year at 3612. My official guess was 3626 for the contest, but sadly I was dreaming when I submitted that! We had above-normal SWE in April, but who knew that precip would come to a halt and that the runoff would go into the soil and be siphoned off to fill the up-stream reservoirs, rather than make it down to the big pond.
 

botnb

Well-Known Member
Alan used to be a regular here , until some of the older members, probably from jealousy, got him so disgusted, he left and I don't know if he still lurks of not. He was a treasure of info, ( see houseboating 101 ), but SOME of the OLD PROS, made so much fun of him. it even pissed ME off and that takes a lot.... (maybe not)
 

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
OK. I found it. It's www.silgro.com where the guy has a treasure trove of freestyle flows of consciousness regarding his many trips and hikes up and out from the main channel. He's spent a lot of time up on Gray Mesa along the pioneer route out of Cottonwood heading east towards the Halls Creek Road running just north of Cha in the San Juan drainage. This section on "neat hikes" at Lake Powell runs 25+ pages of single-space notes. It ends with a thrilling story of a "dive" under Gregory Arch in FiftyMile in a kayak with several historical photos. There is other article on houseboat usage that is nearly as long, but has nothing to do with hiking. There is another link describing this area which is a .pdf accessed on www.hirf.org called "Hole in the Rock Train Lake Canyon-Cottonwood Canyon. You'll spend an entire day researching these sites.
Yes! I remember seeing that site too, but lost track of it—thanks for finding it!! That is a treasure trove, for sure. And yes, I’ll be reading the whole thing, end to end. A really great resource!
 

PowellBride

Well-Known Member
Alan used to be a regular here , until some of the older members, probably from jealousy, got him so disgusted, he left and I don't know if he still lurks of not. He was a treasure of info, ( see houseboating 101 ), but SOME of the OLD PROS, made so much fun of him. it even pissed ME off and that takes a lot.... (maybe not)
Miss his lake knowledge for sure
 

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
Thanks Eric! Much appreciated, and that's a nice lead. I went to Stan Wagon's website, and it's excellent--and I agree, the account of the hike to see Faraway is great...

But overall, I especially like his link to the "problem of the week"...

I'll try to contact him... thanks again...
 

fishfry

Well-Known Member
Alan used to be a regular here , until some of the older members, probably from jealousy, got him so disgusted, he left and I don't know if he still lurks of not. He was a treasure of info, ( see houseboating 101 ), but SOME of the OLD PROS, made so much fun of him. it even pissed ME off and that takes a lot.... (maybe not)
Miss his lake knowledge for sure
The internet ends up ruining everything eventually- probably going to be the demise of our civilization.
 
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