While visiting Antelope Canyon camping at Lake Powell was a must do. Part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area the Lake Powell Wahweap Campground is operated by a National Parks concessionaire. The views from the campsite were awesome with sunrises and sunsets creating beautiful colors on the rocks surrounding the lake.
Construction began in 1956 on the Glen Canyon Dam which holds back Lake Powell but it wasn’t until 1966 that the dams power plant began providing power and until 1980 that the lake reached full pool. The lake level was quite low when we were there resulting in the “bathtub ring” effect around the lake.
This time of the year the concessionaire operates the boat tour up to Rainbow Bridge National Monument on weekends and we were lucky enough to be there on Saturday. Rainbow Bridge is a 50 mile boat trip from Wahweap where we were camping. Created in 1910 by President Taft at that time the trip to visit the monument was several days floating the Colorado River and a 7 miles hike up the canyon (remember the dam was in the future and the lake wasn’t part of the landscape). 290 feet high, 275 feet across, the top of the bridge is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide making it the world’s largest natural bridge.
The boat ride from Wahweap Marina to the bridge was an all day trip and definitely worth the time. At 186 miles long (at full capacity) the trip covered just a fraction of this huge lake.
Views from the lake of the surrounding rocks and mountains and the rock formations in the side canyons are beautiful examples Navajo Sandstone. Our boat Captain and Pilot were great even taking a side trip up a narrow canyon on the ride back to the marina. At times the canyon walls were barely wide enough for the boat to navigate through and close enough to touch (although were were cautioned before entering that this was dangerous and not permitted!).
Rainbow Bridge was reached by just over a mile hike from the boat dock. Views of the bridge from both sides are awe inspiring.The National Park Service in the management of this area consulted with five Native American Nations to determine the best way to protect and preserve as well as allow visitors to enjoy this area considered a sacred place to the tribes. All visitors are asked not to approach or walk under or on the bridge in respect for it’s significance to the native people. It is always refreshing when land managers can work in harmony with not only the tribes but all groups that consider the parks part of their heritage. This seemed especially important as many of the native american religious sites were lost (or at least covered by water) when the dam was built and the waters of Lake Powell rose.
Jerry hasn’t spent much time in the southwest (being an ocean kind of guy) and seemed very impressed with the scenery both here and on our Antelope Canyon trip. I never seem to get tired of the wonderful rock formations, patterns and colors and Rainbow Bridge was no exception. It was fun sharing this area with Jerry on his short visit.
I look forward to coming back to this area and spending more time on the lake and its surrounding canyons.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot