|Lake Powell 2000|
This is the story, or at least what I can remember of it, of eight adventurers: myself, hailing from Houston at the time; my sister Ginger and her husband Sean from Temple, TX; my friend and erstwhile business partner Scott from Fillmore, UT; Roger the Internet mogul from Tucson; Robert, Roger's alpha geek; Robert's overly friendly dog; and Nicole, an Internet acquaintance and traveling companion from Tempe, AZ, who also worked for Roger at the time.
It was the new millennium, and I somehow found myself working in the oil patch, living in a 3/2/2 ranch-style in the West Houston suburbs, playing keys for an R&B band, and maintaining servers part-time for Scott's Utah-based ISP startup. How we met Roger, I can't really remember, but I suspect that Nicole (who had just recently left a position at ASU to work for Roger's ISP) probably introduced us ... or maybe it was the other way around. At any rate, Scott's ISP was selling only dialup at the time, and there was some interest in partnering with Roger to resell DSL. Well, one thing led to another, yada yada yada, and we wound up getting invited out for a week on Roger's houseboat on Lake Powell.
Named for famous (some would say infamous) Grand Canyon explorer John Wesley Powell, Lake Powell was formed by the construction of Glen Canyon Dam between 1956 and 1963. Glen Canyon Dam impounds the Colorado River just above the Grand Canyon, which has made it perhaps the most controversial dam ever to be built in the U.S. We are just now discovering some of the negative environmental impacts that have resulted from preventing the spring floods through the Grand Canyon, not the least of which are the disappearance of sandbars and the appearance of invasive shrubs along the riverbanks. Further, the constant 47-degree year-round water temperature created by the river exiting the penstocks at the bottom of the dam has irrevocably altered the Grand Canyon's ecosystem. The cold water temperature is also suspected to be a major factor in numerous drowning deaths that have occurred since the dam's construction. An unintentional swimmer in the rapids of the Grand Canyon can easily succumb to hypothermia before they are able to swim to shore. All of this does not even factor in Glen Canyon itself, whose breathtaking scenic beauty and countless archaeological treasures are now lost forever under hundreds of feet of water.
It's worth noting, however, that Glen Canyon Dam was actually a compromise. The most vocal dissenters to the project agreed to drop their objections, but only if proposals for two other dams down within the Grand Canyon itself would be shelved. Ironically, part of the wilderness had to be destroyed to save the rest, but the construction of Glen Canyon Dam has brought with it some unexpected benefits, despite the controversy. Apart from the obvious benefits of water and power, Lake Powell has allowed countless numbers of people to see and appreciate the Utah badlands, at least the parts of them that remain high and dry. Before the lake, Glen Canyon was considered a remote and hostile wasteland, accessible by only the most daring of explorers. Apart from the potential value of its minerals, the nation as a whole saw little value in the land. However, once the lake made the surrounding desert accessible to thousands of tourists, tourists who could experience its beauty first-hand and tell others about it, public opinion changed quickly. The area around the lake was designated as a National Recreation Area in 1972, assuring that it would remain free from private development for future generations.
While Lake Mead is technically considered the largest U.S. reservoir in terms of volume, Powell is the largest in every measurement that counts. It's almost twice as long as Mead (186 miles), it has nearly four times as much shoreline (1900 miles), and, at full pool, it has more surface area. Lake Powell is large enough to be considered an "inland sea" by the U.S. Coast Guard, who regularly patrol the lake and maintain the aids to navigation in its ever-changing channels. Lake Powell's jagged shoreline is created by a labyrinthine network of flooded side canyons, most of which are big enough for houseboats to enter. Wilderness enthusiasts can then hike into the dry parts of the canyons and return to the safety of their houseboats later in the day.
We would cover nearly a third of Lake Powell's length during our week-long journey, traveling from side canyon to side canyon along 60 miles of the lower section of the lake.
Day 1 - Sunday, June 25, 2000
Ginger, Sean, and I had flown into St. George, UT on Friday, stayed the night, and taken a side trip to Zion National Park on Saturday. Scott drove down from Fillmore on Sunday morning, and we piled into his car for the 3-hour drive to Page, AZ, a sleepy desert town that was built to house the dam workers during the dam construction. We arrived at Wahweap Marina in the early afternoon and cast eyes upon the Rainbow Reflection for the first time. The Rainbow Reflection is best described by imagining that, back in '75, some hippie took his sheet aluminum travel trailer, hoisted it up on a couple of pontoons, got high, and painted a bitchin' mural on the side ... and, for all we knew, that was exactly what had happened. Despite the meager outward appearance, however, it was actually a pretty nice boat inside, if you could get past the wood paneling and olive appliances that practically screamed for someone to turn on a lava lamp and crank up Foghat on the 8-track. This would be Roger's last year to own the Reflection. My understanding was that slips at Wahweap Marina were such a precious commodity that he and his boat partners were planning to sell the slip rights for a 5-figure sum and then throw in the boat for free.
Nicole was still out getting groceries when we arrived at the marina. She arrived soon after with a literal boatload of food, which we hauled aboard along with our luggage and other sundries. We finally got underway toward late afternoon, pulling out of Wahweap with a rented speedboat and Robert's jet ski in tow. Nicole drove the houseboat for part of the short trip around to the opposite side of Antelope Island (this was back when Antelope Island was really an island and not a peninsula.) This trip took only an hour or so, and we set up anchorage in a small cove for the night. The night's activities included an after-dark swim (most nights on the boat included at least one of these), dinner, and heated debates about Windows vs. Linux, DSL subsidies in the major telecoms, and whether or not philanthropy really exists.
U.S. National Park
Service - Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Information
Lake Powell Map
This album has 38 photos in total.