Paddling Powell for the first time - where to camp, visit, and launch?

Hello everyone! I’m planning on doing a solo kayaking trip this March to Lake Powell with my cat (unless I can find people to come with, which is proving difficult so far). I have never paddled or visited there before and will be there for roughly 5-7 days, and am wondering what are the prettiest parts of the lake and where I should launch from. Any advice would be appreciated, thank you! :slight_smile:

Sorry I can’t help with Lake Powell, but find it fascinating that your cat enjoys kayaking with you. Where does he/she ride?

Demending on how windy it is, she’s either in the kayak sleeping between my legs or she’s perched on my shoulder like a pirate’s parrot lol

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Day trips or multiday camping from the kayak, not a car camp?

I live in Utah and a multi-day on Lake Powell is on my bucket list. The one thing I know for sure is that it’s a huge lake and it can get very windy. You might not have as many power boats to contend with in March as you would in the summer, but you will likely see some. I’ve always thought the Lone Rock/Wahweap area might be a good place to start.
Here’s a link to the NPS website with a little info.

Here’s a good article on kayaking in the Wahweap/Labyrinth Canyon area.

Just found this post… it’s near the end of March, did you and kitty make the trip? I actually lived in Page, AZ for 18 months in 1996-97, managed a large construction project at Navajo Generating Station. In those days I was a sailor, had a Catalina 22 with a little outboard… I sailed/motored everywhere on Lake Powell, an amazing place. Once had a friend show up with 2 powerful SeaDoos that did 65mph on the water… we rode from Wahweap Marina all the way to Bullfrog Marina (each carried 3-5gal jerry cans of gas) and back in one very long day… winds came up and much of the ride was brutal… it took a week to recover from the soreness, but man did we have a fun day.

You can camp anywhere on the lake and there are tons of secluded beaches. Here is a good map:

If you haven’t gone yet, for kayaking I would strongly recommend driving to Bullfrog or Halls Crossing to launch. It is much more scenic and protected upriver than in the open bays near Wahweap… also the bays are very big, and the constant boat swells and high winds would not make for serene paddling. Just my 2 cents worth.

Another ‘just found this post’,
Back in the 90’s and early 2000s, my wife and I took four, week long kayak camping trips on Lake Powell. either paddling from Wahweap or chartering a work boat to transport us up the lake. Two trips were in October, one in March and the other in April.
Our March trip had us dropped at Rainbow Bridge. The snow line was only a 1000’ above us. It was cold and we had a headwind the entire way back. Way too early in the season but we had the lake to ourselves.
April was nice but October was even better with smaller crowds, warm water, pleasant weather and light winds .
Watch for the sudden afternoon thunderstorms, They can produce large waves quickly and can be very dangerous if caught in a narrow canyon. Paddle early to avoid the storms.
The lack of wind allowed us time to paddle in and out of miles of small, sometimes hidden canyons and grottos.
It can be magical. The fishing can be good too, especially in the narrow canyons where bigger boats can’t navigate.
The Escalante arm offers some great hiking. Stay out of tribal lands unless permitted.

We were lucky to paddle when the lake was near full but now, it is very low, Today, it’s 91’ below full basin or 52% of capacity, the result of the long term drought .
We stopped going there once the water level dropped significantly. It reduces its scenic value and adds miles of extra paddling. The recently exposed sandstone leaches calcium and turns white, looking like a giant bathtub ring.
If the lake ever fills up again, we are going to rent a houseboat for a couple weeks and explore the upper reaches of the lake, using the kayaks for long day trips.

I literally laughed out loud at the idea of you and your cat in a kayak! great stuff

I have been on L Powell once in a houseboat. We towed a ski boat and got in trouble one afternoon. The winds are intense with large waves especially in the afternoon and during summer.

March is the time of year with very cold water temperatures. You are going solo.
I would stay in the northern part of the lake in the river canyons. Paddle early in the day. Dress for immersion, wear a PFD and practice self rescues. When it starts to get rough, get off the water. Be careful about getting caught in canyons with venturi winds funneling through. Some have sheer canyon walls and you cannot get off the water. Get a life jacket for your cat.

This trip would be safer in a group. It would probably be a good idea to bring your camp with you except for short day trips. Then if the weather gets bad you can set up a new camp and do not have “to get back to camp.”

I’m planning a similar trip for the end of September, planning to launch at Halls crossing and spend 9-11 days paddling most of the length down to Wahweap. I was also curious if anyone has ever tried fashioning a spinnaker of sorts to deploy if winds pick up? I’d like to paddle the whole thing, but friends who have been there have overwhelmingly confirmed that the lake can get nasty…

When it gets rough you do not want to even think about a sail. You want to be on shore as soon as possible. Avoid having to “get back to camp.” It is best to bring your outfit with you incase you need to bivouac in some canyon.

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First off, I have to say I envy you. Its been too long since I’ve paddled, or even visited the canyon country. But I’ve loved every minute spent there. I’ve got some very tentative interest from a few friends in going back to the Green next Sept. if the virus situation is improved - and let’s hope it does… none of us are getting younger.

Anyhow, I thought I’d mention in case you haven’t seen it, there’s a remarkable little book I stumbled on in a used book store called “Resurrection - Glen Canyon and a New vision for the American West” by Annette McGivney with photographs by James Kay. Its about the areas of Glen Canyon that are once again accessible due to the lowering of lake levels caused by the persistent drought in the west. It was written in '09 and is intended to document the recovery of Glen Canyon. (So beautifully illustrated in “The Place No One Knew” by David Brower and photographed by Eliot Porter prior to its being flooded to create L. Powell) Both books ought to be available from library sources if you haven’t seen them and don’t want to drop a lot of bucks doing so.
I don’t know what present conditions are, but after seeing Resurrection it immediately made me think there’s a paddling trip on the upper reaches that no body thought would ever be available again. Undoubtedly things have changed since '09, but perhaps those changes have been for the better at least as far as river paddling is concerned. It would be worth checking out with local DNR folks, at least.
The word “unprecedented” is perhaps over used these days and is coming to have some pretty unpleasant connotations of late, but here, perhaps, is an unprecedented opportunity to visit beauty that was thought lost forever. Its an opportunity the likes of which may never be seen again.

Just a thought… perhaps someone here has done that upper stretch recently? Bet it would keep you out of some motor boat complications and perhaps avoid some wind as well.

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Thanks, PJC, just bought a copy on Ebay. I’ve been considering such a trip this fall and hope to make it work out with my 16 year old daughter.

Even if you don’t go all the way up to Hite, upon closer examination (I hadn’t looked at the book in a few years) I see many of the “resurrected” areas pictured and described were in, or off of, Escalante Canyon quite near the confluence with the Colorado. That includes the spot known as "Cathedral in the Desert"written about by Powell and Abbey. Those areas might be available on your currently planned trip - but if you’ve ordered the book you’ll see that…

I hope they’re even more completely recovered now than they were in '09… and hopefully more sediment is by now washed away by flash floods in the canyons.

You’ve got quite an adventure ahead, but please do heed Ppine’s wind warnings - there are quite a few spots pictured that look like they could get pretty gnarly in wind and big waves, and with few good landing spots to escape to. Desert winds are weird, or at least they seem so to an upper midwestern guy. (Got a story about that - but I’ll spare you.)

And please post a trip report when you get back!

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I am currently re-reading Colin Fletcher’s book “River”. He has just left the Green R at the Confluence and about to enter Cataract Canyon above Glen Cyn.

Good read.
Bet there are lots of folks here who have a little extra time on their hands these days and would enjoy it.