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


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


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 !