272 miles N of Phoenix; 130 miles E of Grand Canyon North Rim; 130 miles NE of Grand Canyon South Rim
Had the early Spanish explorers of Arizona suddenly come upon Lake Powell after traipsing for months across desolate desert, they would have either taken it for a mirage or fallen to their knees and rejoiced. Imagine the Grand Canyon filled with water, and you have a pretty good picture of Lake Powell. Surrounded by hundreds of miles of parched desert, this reservoir, created by the damming of the Colorado River at Glen Canyon, seems unreal when first glimpsed. Yet real it is, and it draws everyone in the region toward its promise of relief from the heat.
Construction of the Glen Canyon Dam came about despite the angry outcry of many who felt that this canyon was even more beautiful than the Grand Canyon and should be preserved in its natural state. Preservationists lost the battle, and construction of the dam began in 1960, with completion in 1963. It took another 17 years for Lake Powell to fill to capacity. Today, the lake is a watery powerboat playground, and houseboats and water-skiers cruise where once only sounds of birds and waterfalls filled the canyon air. These days most people seem to agree, though, that Lake Powell is as amazing a sight as the Grand Canyon, and it draws almost as many visitors each year as its downriver neighbor. In the past few years, however, Lake Powell has lost some of its luster as a prolonged drought in the Southwest has left the lake's water level down by more than 100 feet. Although this has left a bathtub-ring effect on the shores of the lake, it has also exposed wide expanses of beach in the Wahweap area.
While Lake Powell is something of a man-made wonder of the world, one of the natural wonders of the world -- Rainbow Bridge -- can also be found on its shores. Called by the Navajo nonnozhoshi, or "the rainbow turned to stone," this is the largest natural bridge on earth and stretches 275 feet across a side canyon off Lake Powell.
The town of Page, originally a camp constructed to house the workers who built the dam, has many motels and inexpensive restaurants, and is the main base for many visitors who come to explore Lake Powell.