Lake Powell while on contract in Fort Defiance Arizona (staying in Gallup, NM)
CAIRN TRAVELER VLOG | EP 33
Join me this week for one of THE BEST trips and some of the MOST fun I've EVER had!! I get to test out the new Level Mate Pro. We settle the Airstream into Wahweep Campground at the Lake Powell Marina and visit some awesome spots such as the town of Page, Glen Canyon Recreation Area (i.e. Lake Powell itself), the Glen Canyon Dam, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument (BLM), and Horseshoe Bend. I would have visited Rainbow Bridge National Monument as well but with the lake being so low (approx. 50 feet down), this area wasn't reachable from launching at the Wahweep Marina. Best of ALL, this is my first time on a Jet Ski and on the jaw-droppingly beautiful Lake Powell no less.
Be creative and find your adventure this week!! ✌️😎
Glen Canyon Recreation Area | Wahweep RV Campground and Marina
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Arizona-Utah board is managed broadly under the National Parks Service and thus another NPS site I could bag while doing a ton in the area. I made reservations through the Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas site - and let’s talk cost - 4 nights with full hookups cost ~$340 and 2 days of Jet Ski rental which landed at ~$1000 (which seems quite expensive but we’ll talk about that later).
The campground was beautiful and well maintained with full hookups and 30-50AMP service - it also had a stunning overlook view on Lake Powell itself with tons of sidewalks and trails for walking/running/cycling. While my spot was a back-in, I found ample room to perform the maneuver - it was conveniently angled to the one way loop road to allow for easy of back-in. The sites are spacious with black-top pads and a graveled picnic table area with a fire ring/BBQ pit. The space between sites is generous.
A quick word on weather - given this was late July and we were entering into desert monsoon season, the weather can be a bit volatile. Afternoon clouds and/or storms were to be counted on and high winds could frequently be an issues for camper awnings, etc. As I recall temps were in the 90-100s with full sun out during the day (but with a very nice breeze) and 70-80s at night (again with a lovely breeze - so VERY comfortable). Precipitation was down dramatically this year and water levels were 50 feet down from normal - the docks were noticeably lowered into the lake and then already towering and imposing cliffs were even more so by the reduced levels. There were also several areas of the lake that had become impassable to water craft due to water levels and shoals created.
The marina was conveniently located and within easy walking distance of the campground. An office, gift store, and small restaurant were located down on the docking area of the marina and this is where I went to finalize the pickup for the jet ski (there was also a refunded deposit to put down for damages - approx. $500 as I recall - and no damages ensued). I did not realize on day one that there was a paper which was given to me that I was supposed to leave in the dry box of the jet ski to indicate that it was already rented - thus I actually got a different jet ski on day 2 (which actually seemed a bit faster/sport mode but didn’t have the GoPro mount on the hood that I wanted so I ended up clipping this to my life preserver - I didn’t have one at the time but a GoPro handlebar mount would have also worked well and given better shots than my vest).
First Time Jet Skiing Lake Powell - Was it Worth it?
In three words - HANDS-DOWN ABSOLUTELY!! I went into this adventure figuring that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and was worth the one-time cost, however expensive (by the end of it though, I may have changed my mind about this being a one-time experience). I originally had on my to-do list to take “jet ski lessons” - not sure if this is actually a thing because they are incredibly straight-forward and the quick-start by the staff was perfectly sufficient to orient me on how to safely use the craft, so “lessons” didn’t happen.
Lake Powell has several large marinas with many large multi-million-dollar house boats docked (I think this would be another fabulous adventure to rent or VRBO a house boat) and many of these areas have reduced speeds with calm waters (they also have gas-docking stations where you can refuel). The channel around Antelope Island (near the Glen-Canyon Dam) and towards Antelope Point can be very choppy and I found this to be laugh-out-loud fun, bouncy along at high speeds over the turbulent waters. Around this area there is a turn-off for Lower Antelope Canyon.
While the campground and Marina had excellent cellular data coverage (AT&T Firstnet), venturing much further into the lake resulted in extremely spotty service. I have since disable the feature but Apple devices (my iWatch in this particular case) have an emergency distress feature where if you hold down on a button for too long, it initiates an emergency call to 911 AND notifies ALL of your emergency contacts. Somehow I must have gotten this button stuck on my watch because when I returned back to service, I was flooded with voicemails from 911 and my parents (back in South Carolina) expressing alarm and that they had also contacted the local public safety agencies - SO, a good portion of the rest of my afternoon was spent trying to track down these agencies (NPS Rangers, Page PD, Arizona/Utah Sheriffs Depts., etc. - as the area lies on the AZ-UT border AND within a NPS-managed area, it’s had to tell where exactly a 911 call goes), and notify them that I was indeed okay and NOT in distress.
For day 2 on the lake, I made a salad lunch and made my way out as far as one could go until the lake shoaled and became impassable. I pulled up on a sandstone shore and enjoyed the sun while eating lunch. On the way back - and several high-speed and deliriously fun passes through the choppy waters of the channel - storm clouds drew in overhead and rain began to fall. I honestly think some of this may have been hail because it ended up being quite painful with a good sting to it - it was difficult to make any fast progress in getting back and the faster one went, the harder and more painful the falling rain became. There was little shelter to be had other than to pull along-side an overhanging cliff and wait it out - I just pressed forward.
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is managed under the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and more of a general area than an actual specific location or rock formation. I decided to drive out to this area in the afternoon between day 1 and 2 of jet skiing and the drive was absolutely lovely (I would later drive through this area again as I made my way back to Flagstaff and then to Gallup). However, as I continued to drive the storm clouds overhead grew under the bottom dropping and heavy rain started to fall - so this turned into just a nice drive versus a drive and a hike.
On the way back through the rain, I drove through a pass between two shear cliffs. I had always noted the “Watch for Falling Rocks!” warning signs but as I passed a rock or clod of dirt/sandstone actually fell and smacked against my windshield - quite alarming but thankfully (and a little surprisingly) no damage was done. So the falling rocks do actually happen.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
I originally intended to also knock off Rainbow Bridge National Monument while I was on Lake Powell but it turns out that this NPS site is primarily only accessible by water (and this area of the lake was cut off due to low water levels and shoals) - it is possible to backpack in from the Navajo Nation (approx. 18miles one way) but this requires a permit through Navajo Parks. Bottomline, I wasn’t able to get to this monument on this trip.
Horseshoe Bend Park
The last of the site I visited was Horseshoe Bend Park. While Horseshoe Bend itself technically lies within the NPS-managed Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the small park itself (parking, small facilities, and a short trail) are managed by the town of Page, Arizona - thus National Parks passes do not help with parking fees. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful little spot to stop and see the famous overlook on Horseshoe Bend. Though not as famous, 2.5 hours from Page and through Monument Valley, Goosenecks State Park in Utah offers a similar experience with even more bends to overlook.
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(The last five videos)
Editing: Adobe Premier Pro (Creative Cloud)
Music: Epidemic Sound, MUSICBED, Soundstripe, YouTube Music Library
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