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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Low Water Levels And Closed Boat Ramps Won’t Stop Recreationists At Lake Powell

A photo of a surfboard on Lake Powell.
Mark Kennedy
Lake Powell water levels are quickly dropping, but people who go out frequently are still enjoying the recreational opportunities.

Lake Powell’s water levels are near historic lows, and as a result, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has had to fully and partially close several boat ramps.

People who frequently recreate on the lake say getting on the water is more difficult and takes more planning now, but lower water levels have also allowed them to see previously hidden sights.

Since the lake’s level is constantly in flux — beaches and cliffs that are prominent one weekend can be unreachable the next. This year, Lydia Karic said it’s particularly stark.

She lives near Phoenix, Arizona and went on a recent kayak trip to the lake. She said getting to the water was more work than she expected and she and her group had to carry kayaks further to get in a place they could launch.

“The problem this time is when we went to those beaches that we normally would camp on are 50 feet, 60 feet in the air,” she said. “We didn't have as many options when it came to finding a beach.”

Native ecosystems that existed in the canyons before Lake Powell was created, are returning as the lake drains.

Jamie Grasso has seen these formerly underwater sights first hand on some of her recent trips. Grasso lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, and she often makes it out to Lake Powell to hang out.

“For fishermen, it's revealed, actually, some pretty cool things,” she said. “We get to see where some of the underwater trees that tend to hold fish that we didn't know were there before. So it's all how you look at it, but it is pretty bad for the houseboaters.”

Glen Canyon officials announced on July 17 houseboats can’t be launched from the Wahweap Main Launch Ramp because of low water levels. They predict when the lake elevation is 3,551 feet at the ramp, it will be unusable to motorized boats. Currently, the lake’s elevation is just over 3,555 feet.

Dustin Fechner, who also lives near Phoenix, was on a houseboat at Lake Powell earlier this month. He said he had to travel further to get to an open ramp, but less water won’t stop him from going.

“We're just going to have to budget with more gas and more time and just see what happens,” Fechner said. “But it would not deter me from still coming to Lake Powell, that's for sure.”

Despite the challenges with launching, Mark Kennedy, of Salt Lake City, said Lake Powell is still a getaway for him. He said he’s a regular there and once he’s able to get out on the water, it’s “business as usual.”

“You just sit there and swim and relax,” Kennedy said.“When I get there, it's my drug, I can feel my blood pressure going down. It's just a wonderful, beautiful place to go.”

The lake is also an important water and power source in the West, and it’s currently nearly 33% full.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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