Kayaking in Glen Canyon

One of the highlights of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area is the glassy waters of Lake Powell. The lake was created by flooding the Colorado River running through Glen Canyon with the construction of a dam. It is named for explorer John Wesley Powell, a one-armed American Civil War veteran who explored the river in wooden boats 1869. This picture only shows a small portion of this second largest (right below Lake Mead) man-made reservoir.

Just a note for those who follow along regularly. I got behind. Like way behind. When we last left off it was April and Greg and I were trying to win the Wave lottery and exploring Kanab. We are currently back in Cabbagetown for the summer and just finished our first month of house sitting. Greg is in full swing painting houses. I could make lots of excuses for dropping the ball on keeping up with the blog but I’m sure you don’t really want to hear them. Anyways- I am still determined to document all of our travels so we are picking back up where we left off way back somewhere traveling around in the southwest desert…

April 20 – April 23, 2019.

Glen Canyon is a National Recreation Area in Arizona on the Arizona/Utah border. We had never heard of it until we passed by it two years ago as we were traveling from the Grand Canyon to Utah (there would be a link here to that trip if I wasn’t so terribly behind on those blog posts about our first year on the road in Ballena Blanca). We had no plans to stop since we had been totally unaware of its existence but when we saw the visitor center we decided to check it out. The visitor center overlooks the Glen Canyon Dam which forms the vast Lake Powell. We perused and took some pictures of the displays about the dam inside the center (And if I ever write that blog post, you will get to see some of those pictures). We also strolled around a bit outside taking more pictures of the dam and the lake. As I pointed my camera towards the water I saw some houseboats cruising across the lake and thought, “This place would probably be really fun to explore by boat.” Unfortunately, the only boat we had at the time was in Florida, quietly draining money out of our pockets as she patiently waiting for us to give up this vanning whim and return to throwing money at her.

Two years later we found that we would be passing through Glen Canyon again and this time I was prepared. Our sailboat was long gone but now I had a nice, little, and much less demanding boat neatly folded up under our bed. “Perhaps there is some good kayaking in Lake Powell,” I wondered as I looked at my online map. So I searched on the internet and found out that although there are lots of places to kayak on the lake, the place with the most convenient access would take us into Antelope Canyon.

Located on Native American land near the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, Antelope Canyon is a big draw. So big that you can’t hike the canyon without hiring a guide or going on a paid tour. Except for the entrance fee to the Marina where the boat launch was (which was covered by our new National Park Pass we had just bought in Kanab), kayaking into Antelope Canyon would not only be free for us but inflating the kayak one more time would bring our per-use expense for it down just a little bit more, we could experience the canyon at our own pace sans a guide and other people, and it would make me once again glad that I spent so much time last summer trying to figure out how to fit a sturdy two-person kayak into Ballena Blanca.

Besides the kayaking, we found a few other things to do in the Glen Canyon area. We went on a few hikes, did a bit of lake and river gazing, took the dam tour, spent a day doing chores and laundry, and took a few $2 showers.

We passed up one of the other big attractions to the area – Horseshoe Bend. Perhaps you have seen pictures of this site on Instagram or on the screen saver for your Apple TV. It is quite stunning and very popular. The attraction is free and only just a short hike from a ten dollar parking lot. I don’t think I would have cared too much about the parking cost if there weren’t hundreds of cars already parked in it when we passed by. I’d rather just stay off the beaten path which, of course, is why I have a kayak folded up under my bed.

* Click pictures to enlarge and view in a slideshow.

Wiregrass Canyon

There isn’t a lot of hiking at Glen Canyon but if there is a trail to be hiked we will find it. We drove a little bit up the road back towards Utah to find Wirepass Canyon.

Mostly the hike was pretty easy but some parts of it were a little tricky. We hiked down through this part of the canyon on way out but found an easier bypass on our way back.

Rock and sky.

The trail was an out and back. We turned around at this natural bridge.

Colorful rocks found at the natural bridge.

Blooms on the trail.

Some of the most interesting rock formations were the “broken” ones.

Kayaking Antelope Canyon

The idea of kayaking a slot canyon was pretty exciting. We were worried that it might get a bit narrow but it never got too narrow that we couldn’t turn around.

In fact, it was plenty wide enough for tour boats to cruise down even though they passed pretty closely.

Before our trip, we studied the map a bit to figure out how far we wanted to go down the canyon and where the best place to turn around would be. It was wasted time. During our visit to the lake the water level was probably at the lowest it will be all year – around 40 feet lower than the current lake level. Our paddle abruptly ended at this beach.

The water was glassy on our paddle back.

The kayak launch. Because the water was so low the regular boat launch for bigger boats was closed but kayakers were still able to walk down this hill to put in the water at the Antelope Point Marina.

Glen Canyon Dam Tour

Construction started on the dam in 1956 and lasted for ten years. First, water diversion tunnels were blasted out on each side. Completion of the bridge in 1959 speeded the construction process in this remote area. In 1960 the process of pouring 400K 24 ton buckets of wet concrete started, and ran 24*7. The dam is 100′ thick at the top and 300′ thick at the base. In 1963 crews started installing the turbines. The dam was dedicated by Ladybird Johnson in 1966, but it took another 17 years for the Colorado river to bring it to “full” level (560′ at the dam’s face).

Looking from the dam to the bridge. A net was suspended below the bridge as it was being built (saving three lives). Before it was completed construction crews had to drive up to 200 miles to reach this site. Now the nearby town of Page is a vacationer’s destination.

Rock Rods. These rods can be up to 75′ long. Holes are drilled into the canyon wall and rock rods are screwed in. The flared tips at the end hold a 1′ sq. plate that helps keep the canyon wall from flaking away. Several men died hanging over the cliffs, installing these.

The eight turbines in this dam generate 1.3M kilowatts at capacity. The turbine in the foreground is undergoing routine maintenance. Its red 40 ton steel shaft and housing are far in the distance.

“Blown Fuse”. Power from one of the turbines surged and caused this strip of conduit to explode. Here’s what’s left.

Colorado River Overlook

A view of the dam and the Colorado River.

The Colorado River winds down river away from the dam.

Hike to the Hanging Gardens

On our last day at Glen Canyon, we did a short hike to the Hanging Gardens. A seep spring keeps this wall of Jurassic Navajo sandstone lush.

View from our hike to the Hanging Gardens.

Cactus blooms.

10 thoughts on “Kayaking in Glen Canyon

  1. Craig Cortez said:

    Hey Duwan and Greg,

    Just wanted to say “hey” and that I still enjoy your blogs and the fantastic photography. I was wondering if you do any youtube videos that sort of mirror your blog. I think folks would enjoy your videos if the content is similar to your blog website. I would be a fan.

    One of my children (Eric) seems to have the nomad attribute that you all have and he is currently in Indonesia working as a scuba dive master/instructor at various dive shops. He has also worked in Greece and in Thailand. Other kids, Caryn and Mark are doing well also. Mark is still at home working on his “next steps” and Caryn is Spanish professor at CCU and live in Myrtle Beach with her husband Javi.

    The SC Upstate is still here. It’s getting crowded in Grenville, so I’m glad to live out a bit in Easley. Not a vegan, but in the past few years, i have been trying my hand at growing our food. I like experimenting and so far this year’s experiment is Chinese noodle beans which can grow a couple of feet long. Also, trying to grow the Okinawan purple sweet potato, which is supposed to be one of the staples in Okinawa. It is a super-food consumed by a culture with a lot of centenarians.

    Anyway, I will vicariously experience your adventures that you share. Take care!

    Craig

    • Duwan said:

      Hi Craig! Great to hear from you! Sounds like Eric is following his dream. So awesome! Perhaps if we ever take our travels worldwide we will have to run into him somewhere. I’m so jealous of anyone that is bilingual, I’d love to be a Spanish professor like Caryn living on the beach! And we totally identify with Mark – we always feel like we are working on our “next steps.”

      We have a Youtube channel but have very little on it. Making videos seems like so much work – but maybe you have inspired me, we will see.

      Good for you growing your own food – and interesting food at that! Wish we could have a garden but it doesn’t fit too well with our mobile lifestyle, unfortunately.

  2. John McDonough said:

    Back in the 80s I went out to Lake Powell with some VA, MD friends (and one couple from LA). We rented a houseboat and toured the lake. Climbed a lot of canyons. Most of us were in the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club so hiking was our thing. Cooking dinners and drinking beer (for hydration of course!) were the big activities for the evening. We bought so much beer we had some left over and the LA couple took it back to LA in their pickup truck. Fun trip!

    • Glad you posted this, better late than never. So gorgeous, and I know you were happy to put your yak to good use!
      Keep catching up!

      • Duwan said:

        Thanks Jules! I’m going to try to keep at it. I love getting the kayak out. This next fall might be all about kayaking.

    • Duwan said:

      I bet that trip was a blast. Maybe we will rent a houseboat on the lake sometime. We can’t ever imagine having too much beer. Glad it didn’t get wasted.

  3. Jo said:

    Duwan, your photos are stunning!

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks so much Jo!

  4. Hi guys! What amazing photos – you seem to have had the perfect weather for all your Glen Canyon adventures. Of course, I just love your kayak trip through Antelope Canyon. We briefly stopped at the Rec Area (Lees Ferry), but it was too hot to do any hikes, that one day in May. Also cool that you did the dam tour. We passed, being frugal as always. Nice picture up towards the bridge over the Colorado River. Only possible from the tour! Good to see that you’re catching up on your blogs. I’m catching up on reading and commenting. 🙂

    • Duwan said:

      Yes, we did have good weather. We picked our day to kayak the canyon based on the day it was least likely to rain. It worked out. I can’t believe it got hot so quickly in May. Of course, we are boiling here in Atlanta now – but of course, we are living indoors (well I am, Greg is painting outside every day).

      We love doing things like the dam tour if they are reasonably priced and they give us a broader experience of a place.

      Hope you are enjoying your catching up and that everyone is staying cool this summer.

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