Lake Powell Surprise

The feature that most dominates the landscape north of Page Arizona is Lake Powell, and there are some wonderful viewpoints overlooking this man-made landmark. And some surprises, too!

First, let me say up front that I am not a fan of dams and man-made lakes. I understand the reasons for building them, from electrical power generation to stable water supply to recreation, but as a general rule I believe they destroy the grand landscapes where they exist. Dams are eyesores, and the lakes generally look fake, and are never as visually attractive as what they replace. A prime example is the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite National Park. Never heard of it, right? That’s exactly my point. Hetch Hetchy is, or was, almost an exact duplicate of Yosemite Valley, which everyone has heard of. The difference is that Hetch Hetchy is flooded by a dam and Yosemite Valley is not. I covered this in my article Hetch Who? a couple of years ago.

But Lake Powell is actually pretty. In fact, on our recent photography road trip to the Southwest, my friend Jeremy and I specifically targeted a couple of spots overlooking portions of Lake Powell as shooting locations we wanted to visit. Had conditions been right, we would have tried for even more spots. One location, Alstrom Point, was inaccessible due to recent heavy rains, while another spot in Glen Canyon didn’t have quite the right look (due to high water levels) to justify the grueling hike required to access it.

Lake Powell was formed when the Glen Canyon Dam was constructed between 1956 and 1966. The purpose of the dam is typical, to provide hydroelectric power and to regulate the flow of water to areas downstream on the Colorado River.

Looking at the map below you can see that Lake Powell is not your typical oval-shaped lake, but actually heads off in all directions, filling canyons in an almost fiord-like fashion. So when you talk about views of Lake Powell, you really need to be specific as to the exact bay, cove, or canyon being discussed.

One viewpoint that was easily accessible and quite breathtaking was a place called Wahweap Overlook. Below the overlook is Wahweap Bay, the westernmost division of Lake Powell. The overlook is just north of Page and the Glen Canyon Dam on U.S. Route 89. The spot is well visited, but a large parking lot makes it manageable – well, for most folks, anyway. We got to witness the driver of a group of young tourists drive his expensive rented RV straight into a huge rock barricade. While the vehicle did not appear to be damaged, the look on the guy’s face and the screams coming out his mouth made the spectacle quite entertaining.

Wahweap Bay, Lake Powell, Arizona

Puffy clouds dominate the view over Wahweap Bay, part of Lake Powell in Arizona.

While I was back at the vehicle changing lenses or something, Jeremy came running up the hill beside the parking lot to grab a telephoto lens, all excited that he had found a pack of young animals, perhaps coyotes, hanging out in plain sight down the hill a bit. Of course I also grabbed my longest lens and ran back down with him. Sure enough, there were at least five of these little guys playing near their den. Looking at the images now, it appears that two of them are older, although they don’t look fully grown to me. And I still haven’t figured out whether they are foxes or coyotes – or something else – although I’m leaning towards coyotes at the moment. If you know, please leave a comment and some detail or explanation to back up your identification.

Blending In, Wahweap, Arizona

A group of young coyotes or foxes play near their den, near Wahweap, Arizona.

Two young coyotes or foxes play near their den, near Wahweap, Arizona.

Two young coyotes or foxes play near their den, near Wahweap, Arizona.

But Lake Powell isn’t the only feature in the area. Next week we’ll look at some of the interesting sandstone formations near here resembling the famous feature known as “The Wave”, so don’t forget to check back!

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