your paddlesports destination

Lake Powell in Utah

Trip Overview


After seeing photos and reading trip reports, a paddling trip on Lake Powell was on my list of trips to do, and seemed like one I might be able to pull off solo on a spring or fall vacation. My job affords time off in spring and fall so, I left snowy Jackson Hole with a car full of gear and a kayak on the roof. I had paddling gear, and not-much of an idea of exactly where to go. The nice things about trips like this one, especially solo, is that one can go without a strict itinerary. Prior to paddling, I spent about a week touring Mesa Verde and Cedar Mesa, hiking charming canyons, and viewing ancient Native American ruins.

From Cedar Mesa, I drove west toward Hall's Crossing, on the east, or south side of Lake Powell. In retrospect, departing from Bullfrog Marina on the other side of the lake might be better for buying supplies, food, booze, etc. I had plenty of supplies, but mention it for readers planning a trip. The ferry was not running during my visit. The ferry runs from Halls to Bullfrog and back, taking passengers and their cars for a fee. Schedules ramp up during summer, and slow down in off-seasons.

I arrived at Halls early afternoon on Tuesday, April 12th and drove down to the Marina after seeing the RV Campground's store was closed. The NPS ranger office (Lake Powell is in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area) was closed, so I walked over to the marina store. I asked a couple of store workers about how to find the ranger, and they replied that he was around, but obviously, not now. I asked them about camping, permits, etc., and then went to get a site at the campground for a night, so I could pack and prepare.

My plan, after looking at the map, was to pack up, with plenty of food and paddle south. I could paddle and camp for up to a week on what I had, and would let my body be the guide for far I went. I hadn't paddled for a number of months, and while being in decent shape, wasn't in hero shape.

Day 1 - Weds, April 13
After packing the night before, I made breakfast and packed the last of my things, including sleeping bag, stove and anything else used overnight or that morning. I took a shower at the campground (my first in a number of days, and last for some more), which was nice and hot. Then I drove down to the boat ramp, dropped boat, dry bags, and everything else by the water, and parked my car.

Everything fit into the boat, so I pulled on my skirt and PFD, and set off. Weather was beautiful, sunny, warm, with a light breeze from the west. One thing about Lake Powell, is that the deep, cliff-lined canyon is like a wind tunnel. The wind can run down the canyon in directions different from the prevailing wind. It can also be very unpredictable in bends and corners.

Anyway, the weather was agreeable, so I paddled generally south for a few miles, and saw two kayakers, pulled up on shore. They were on the western shore here, rocky with some beaches, whereas the opposite shore was steep cliffs going straight into the water. I paddled generally in their direction, looking to take a short break. One waved me over. They were British Columbians, down for a warm-weather paddling trip.

We discussed our respective plans, both of which were to go vaguely south, though they allotted 10 days. I didn't want to hang around and bother them, so I paddled down the shore a little bit, took a quick break and hopped back in the boat.

The paddling went smoothly, with the next 10 miles or so going by relatively quickly. The canyon here is a mix of sheer cliffs, with some rocky shoreline, and some small beaches. There are places to get out of your kayak, but sometimes they may be a mile away. This matters, because waves, bouncing off cliffs, cause unpredictable and potentially dangerous conditions.

Near mile 81, I set up camp on a beach on the southeast corner of a point opposite Slick Rock Canyon. This campsite was sheltered by rock (petrified sand dunes) above and therefore out of the wind. My Canadian friends came by not long after, hugging the opposite shore, and camped in the Slick Rock Canyon Inlet.

Day 2 - Thurs, April 14
Plenty rested from an early retirement the night before, I got up and made a quick breakfast of oatmeal, and got on my way. Conditions were calm for a couple of hours in this part of the canyon.

Paddling past beautiful canyon walls, through glass-smooth water, it was a morning to remember. I paddled south, toward The Rincon, an abandoned meander or oxbow of the Colorado River. Here I took a quick break on a beach, and a pit-stop at one of the floating bathroom/pumphouse facilities that exist every 5-10 miles or so. These floating outhouses are very nice. I can't imagine, nor do I want to, the amount of waste they keep off of the shores and backcountry of Glen Canyon.

I hung out here for a while, warming up my hands and body. There was a rather strong wind coming from the south, ripping down the west side of The Rincon, and right onto the beach and then northwest down the next stretch of the river. Again, I met with my Canadian friends, while they cooked a late breakfast, and paddled off, with a tailwind for once.

Rounding the bend to the south (left) I took a break at a small pocket beach. I ground coffee, and brewed it up. A late cup, but as winds were now again coming at me, a welcome stimulant. The Canadians passed me here, and paddled on down the canyon. I put back in and set off, passing them catching a fish. They shouted that I should come by for a fish fry later. I replied that I would, and kept paddling.

They caught up a mile or two down the lake. We paddled on to our vague plan to camp by the Escalate River at its confluence with the Colorado. I paddled along, looking up at amazing cliffs of rock, red and black above, and white above the water. The white shows the level of the lake at its highest. Drought and use of water, so sparse in this region, has been dropping the lake steadily for years.

At the confluence of the Colorado and Escalante, we camped. Brian and Dave caught another fish, making the total three, and I set up my tent around the corner to give them some space. We had an excellent dinner (Thanks guys!) and traded stories. They check the weather, and remarked a weather system was moving in. I went to sleep with a plan to start heading back early in the A.M.

Day 3 - Fri, April 15
Windy overnight. I got up and had coffee and oatmeal, and packed my boat up. Paddling back around the point, I saw Brian and Dave weren't awake yet. I regretted not saying goodbye, but started moving; the wind was kicking up. The prevailing wind of the day was coming from the north, but, being in a canyon came around a corner, and I had a head wind to start. For the next 3 miles or so, options for landing are limited, and reflection waves can be severe. They weren't so bad yet, but I stayed on the inside of the curve, crossing eventually to be on the inside of the curve of the next bend in the canyon,.

I stopped at the same beach as yesterday for a quick break. Hopping back in the boat, I round a bend to the right, and for the next mile or two, I had a tailwind! As I approached the area near The Rincon, the wind again became a headwind. A pretty stiff one at that, with choppy waves and gusts. I hugged the left shore where the shore isn't as steep, and has some small bays. I finally pulled into one with a nice small beach as the gusts became strong, and clouds were darkening.

I grabbed the dry bag containing camping gear, and set up my tent. It rained for a while, then clouds thinned and the sun came out. I waited a while for my tent to dry. I applied to seam grip to a few points where a wind-driven trip across some rocks had put holes in the tent. Waiting for an hour or so, and snacking I packed up and paddled again.

The winds were calmer here. That first bit of storm seemed to have passed, and paddling wasn�t bad. On the horizon, though, were more dark clouds. I reached the point I had camped on the first night out, but camped on the west side for better wind protection, plus a nice beach!

I hung out for an hour or two, setting up camp and starting to dry paddle gear, as the clouds darkened. After I had started a fire, my only one of the trip, rain started. I ran to clean things up, ate dinner that was finally ready and hopped in the tent. It rained for two hours, maybe less, but time tent-bound can drag. Being tired, without much to do, I read, but went to sleep early.

Day 4 - Sat, April 16
The wind blew through the night. I'd peek out the door of my tent occasionally at night to watch interesting streams of clouds rip by. It was still windy when I woke for good that day. I had breakfast and packed, with an experiment in mind. I expected strong winds and waves around the corner heading north, I thought I'd keep moving if it was good, cross to Slick Rock Canyon, have a look around and maybe camp if it wasn't so good, or just paddle back to camp if it was really bad. I crossed to Slick Rock Canyon, but didn't like the camping situation, especially because of winds. I had a look around, getting out of the boat, but ultimately crossed back to the same campsite and got comfortable for a rest/wind day.

The rest of the day was passed eating, drinking water and tea, reading and looking at rocks on the beach. I was getting a bit antsy or feeling the loneliness of a solo trip, so I hoped the weather would be better for paddling the next day.

Day 5- Sun, April 17
I packed up, ready to get a move on. I had oatmeal, but no coffee. The wind was still strong, watching clouds move quickly up high. Waves were coming around the bend from the north, and their size indicated some tough winds to paddle into.

I rounded the point, hugging the western shore. It was indeed windy and wavy. This shore holds some features that allow a paddler to get out of north/south wind and waves to rest and regroup. I paddled north resting before getting to the channel around buoy #83. Here I crossed, going directly north, paddling straight into the wind as much as possible. From there I headed north, hugging the eastern shore to stay out of wind and waves. Passing a short section of cliffs coming into the water, I found a nice beach and went ashore.

I ate some food, and contemplated staying here for the night. In retrospect it would've been a better spot. I watched waves coming from up-lake, and wondered how wavy the next section would be. Hanging out for an hour or so, I was growing tired of being stuck, and hopped back into my boat.

I paddled north and rounding the point, where waves were now coming out of the southeast, I paddled to cross to the northern shore. This part felt like the sketchiest of the whole trip. The waves were unpredictable, and winds poured over cliffs to the north. As I got to the northern shore, hoping for a spot out of the wind, I found reflection waves. I found a small cave to pull into, rested and paddled near the shore, looking for a tiny pocket beach where I'd landed Day 1. Beyond this was a passage with strong winds and waves that would make paddling difficult.

It's so small I almost passed it. Reversing, I pulled my boat up into muck, and felt momentarily relieved. I climbed easy slabs up to level rock in the petrified dunes. It was early still, around noon. I hoped to keep paddling, and so, kept my paddling clothes on. This way, I thought, I could hop in my boat and go when the wind died.

Two times I got into my kayak and paddled out into the channel ahead, and both times recognized the winds would be more than I wanted to paddle into.

I spent the afternoon on the rock walking around, eating, drinking water, and hoping. Eventually, I conceded to the wind, and climbed down to my boat to grab my camping stuff, and food for the morning.

I set up my tent, had paddling clothes ready to put on and go, plus food and camp essentials. I, again, went to sleep early; ready to paddle as soon as it was light.

Day 6- Mon, April 18
I woke up around 5am. The wind had finally died down. I watched clouds float by the Milky Way, eventually growing dim in the morning light. I dressed in my tent, eating cold foods to save time. I hoped to make to most of weather, bad or good, by getting up before winds could stir up the lake.

Paddling out into calm, dark blue water at 6:15 am, I saw that today would be calm. Much more calm than the previous few days. I kept paddling, but felt relieved. The next passage went smoothly, where it would've been sketchy the day before. I rounded a bend seeing little dark things floating in the water. They turned out to be carp. The carp sit at surface level with mouths open. Passing by, they'd dive with a splash.

The next couple of hours passed pleasantly, as I paddled to Halls Crossing. I landed, unloaded my boat, rinsed out mud in the lake and sponged out the cockpit. I then loaded my boat onto the car, loaded gear and drove on to the next adventure.

Outfitting:

Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 17

Fees:

Glen Canyon NRA Backcountry (Including Lake Powell Shoreline):

No camping fee is required; Primitive Camping

Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days, 30 days maximum per season. No camping is permitted at Rainbow Bridge National Monument.

Glen Canyon Entrance Fee
1-7 Day Vehicle Pass - $25
Admits one single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers.

Boating Fees
1-7 Day Boating Pass - $25
Admits one single private vessel

Directions:

Wahweap, AZ:

Three miles north of Page, AZ on Highway 89 is the south entrance and eight miles south of Big Water Utah is the north entrance to the Wahweap district of Glen Canyon NRA. In-park shuttle service is available at Wahweap.

Antelope Point, AZ:
Three miles east of Page on Highway 98, turn north on BIA Hwy N22B to Antelope Point Marina and/or Antelope Point public launch ramp. Antelope Point Marina provides shuttle service.

Lees Ferry and Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center, AZ:
Located on Highway 89A 45 miles southwest of Page Arizona and 62 miles southeast of the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Lees Ferry is located seven miles down the Lees Ferry road from Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center.

Lone Rock Beach, UT:
Two miles south of Big Water, UT or 12 miles north of Page, AZ at the Utah/Arizona border on Hwy 89 is the entrance to Lone Rock Beach. There is limited hard-surfaced road, with the majority of access to Lake Powell on sandy roads or beach.

Bullfrog, UT:
The Bullfrog Visitor Center is located on Utah Highway 276. Ferry Service is provided by the state of Utah from Bullfrog to Halls Crossing. In-park shuttle service is available at Bullfrog.

Operating hours of the "Charles Hall" Ferry, which runs between Halls Crossing and Bullfrog, change throughout the year. For more information on the ferry, you can call UDOT in state at 511 or out of state at 1-866-511-UTAH or visit the UDOT website.

Halls Crossing, UT:
Halls Crossing is reaching by Utah Highway 276. Ferry Service is provided by the state of Utah from Halls Crossing to Bullfrog. In-park shuttle service is available at Halls Crossing.

Hite, UT:
Hite is located just off Utah Highway 95; approximately 50 miles southwest of Hanksville, UT or 80 miles northwest of Blanding, UT. At this time the Hite Main ramps are open. They are gravel, so launch at your own risk.

Resources:

National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map - Glen Canyon NRA

  • Duration: Extended Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip