Miles of Exploration
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah: Slot canyons for hiking and Lake Powell for water recreation are part of this vast landscape of buttes, mesas and cliffs
In 1869, explorer John Wesley Powell described the region that is today known as Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as, “A curious ensemble of wonderful features….” The luminous blue sky, powerful river and salmon-colored rock walls that Powell experienced acted in concert to create one of the most scenic locations on Earth. Of course, when Powell negotiated the rapids of the Colorado River, the water flowed freely. In 1962, however, Glen Canyon Dam was built, producing hydroelectric power but also impeding the flow of the Colorado. The enormous body of water that resulted from the stoppage of the river, Lake Powell, submerged slot canyons and petroglyphs, the loss of which many people consider to be sacrilegious.
Yet as vociferously as environmentalists — author Edward Abbey foremost among them — decried what they deemed to be the dese-cration of this portion of Utah and Arizona, more than 2 million visitors annually partake of the 1.2 million acres that encompass Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Visitors willing to explore on foot can hike through numerous slot canyons and discover various petroglyphs. And travelers who prefer aquatic adventures can literally navigate hundreds of miles of placid water within the bounds of the recreation area.
One of the most popular methods by which to explore the main channels, giant arms and large coves is by renting a houseboat. No elaborate training is required to pilot these watercrafts, but boaters should study the maps of the lake carefully, because trying to turn a veritable barge around in a slot canyon could unduly tarnish visitors’ opinions of Lake Powell. Small powerboats, PWCs, canoes and kayaks, though, are perfect for poking around slot canyons. And the lake is tailor made for exploring by small sailboat, beaching the craft in a remote cove, then basking in moon glow in quiet seclusion.
Visitors can enjoy Glen Canyon in many ways, including exploring the lake on day trips and spending evenings in campgrounds at the four major marinas. No matter how travelers choose to experience Glen Canyon, they should do their best to see Rainbow Bridge National Monument. At 290 feet high, it is among the world’s highest natural bridges.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area | 928-608-6200 | www.nps.gov/glca