Paddling Lake Powell: Otherworldly Beauty

paddling lake powell
Kayakers paddling in one of Lake Powell's 96 canyons.

A 4.7 Trillion-Gallon Lake in Utah?

Lake Powell is almost entirely within the state of Utah, with its southern tip in north-central Arizona. Powell is famous for its flooded canyons—96 of them—and 1,960 miles of dramatic shoreline. At any given time there’s somewhere around 4.7 trillion gallons of water in the lake.

That’s a lot of shoreline and a lot of water for an area that averages only 6 inches of rain a year! Lake Powell wasn’t created by rainfall, obviously. It’s a reservoir that was created in the 1960s after the completion of Glen Canyon Dam, near Page, Arizona.

Now this huge lake is situated within and protected by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

It’s extremely popular with boaters, and is a wonderland for kayaking and canoeing—especially if you can get away from the houseboats and water skiers and into the more secluded arms and canyons.

Why Lake Powell is Such a Great Paddling Lake

Lake Powell’s uniqueness is its surrounding landscape. The red and yellow rock is weathered and sculpted into caves and arches, with the high canyon walls towering far overhead.

paddling in a lake powell canyon
Paddling into one of Lake Powell's stunning canyons

Paddling a kayak or canoe into the narrow canyons is an otherworldly experience. And listen to these names: Reflection Canyon, Forbidden Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, Ice Cream Canyon…someone had fun christening those!

Whether for a half-day paddle or a multi-day excursion, a paddle trip on Lake Powell is one you’ll never forget.

Dan Arbuckle, owner of Headwaters Kayak in Lodi, California, is a huge fan of Lake Powell. He and his 4-year old daughter spent 5 days there recently with a group:

“There is so much to say about our adventure. The mirror reflections of the canyon walls have a way of drawing you in and making your imagination run wild. The textures, the light reflection off the water onto the red rock, the glimmer on the water as a kayak passes by disturbing the mirror-like surface. It was truly unlike anything I've ever paddled before.

“The landscape of Lake Powell gave the feeling of paddling on the surface of Mars. Truly a special place in the world. Kenzie and I had the best week of our lives together.”

Dan recommends hiring an outfitter that knows the Lake. He goes through Hidden Canyon Kayak out of Page, AZ. An outfitter will know where to go for the kind of experience you’re looking for:

  • Where to leave the motorized boats behind and be more secluded…
  • Which canyons have campsites, which have hiking trails…
  • Hidden Canyon Kayak will motor you out to the most remote places on the Lake. They offer 3-5 day trips, complete with all meals and gear.
  • They can set you up with the equipment you need for your paddling excursion.

Of course you can choose to rent a boat and strike out on your own, too. Maps are available, as are local rentals:

Lake Powell
Lake Powell with its surrounding landscape

Unique in the world, Lake Powell certainly deserves to be on your paddling bucket list.

(All photos courtesy of Daniel Arbuckle)

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