Lake Powell Arizona
The history of the creation of Lake Powell, in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, which is visited by more than four million people each year. Glen Canyon Dam was built to regulate water levels of the Colorado River. With the creation of the dam came the creation of Lake Powell,
Lake Powell is located at the northern border of Arizona and spreads into southern Utah. It is the prize of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Created in the 1950's by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, it is a 186-mile lake with 96 major canyons and 1,960 miles of shoreline. Its shoreline is 800 miles longer than the California coastline.
The canyon was created when a shallow inland sea rose and fell.
Today when you look at Lake Powell, it is difficult to imagine a time when there was no lake at all.
The first people to live in the area now covered by Lake Powell were the Paleo Indians. They were nomads who hunted mammoths and bison. The climate was cool and wet. When the climate changed in 6,000 BC, the animals moved away.
In about 200 BC, the Anasazi Indians started to live there. Anasazi is believed to mean "Ancient Ones." There were two different periods of the Anasazi Indians. The first period was known as the Basket Makers, a primitive people who farmed, gathered, and wove baskets. The second period of the Anasazi Indians was called the Pueblo Period. They were cliff dwellers, building their villages on the sides of the steep canyon walls. These people were more advanced. They developed a system of irrigation, made excellent pottery, and drew petroglyphs on rocks.
The Anasazis' peak of civilization was from 1050 to 1250 AD. They built Defiance House, an Anasazi village that is located in a canyon called Forgotten Canyon. Today it is the most visited ruin on the lake. Soon after the Anasazis' peak of civilization, they mysteriously disappeared. This may have been because of a drought, soil depletion, over population, disease, or wars with other Indian tribes.
Not much is known about Lake Powell's history until 1776 when the Spaniards came. Then came the trappers who trapped beaver and tried to find an overland route to California. The Mormons followed. They herded cattle along the Colorado River.
In 1869, John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) arranged a crew for an expedition exploring and mapping the area from the Green River in Wyoming through the canyon that is now the location of Lake Powell. It wasn't an expedition that was expected to succeed. Powell, a professor of natural history at a small Illinois college, and his band of 10 men departed from Green River, Wyoming in four boats, on their two-and-a-half month journey of 1,000 miles. Three of the 10 men deserted in mid-expedition, never to be heard from again. Powell was referred to as the "one-armed leader" because he lost his lower right arm in the Civil War's Battle of Shiloh.
Because of Powell's expedition, ranchers began arriving in the 1880's. In 1896, George Flavell and Ramon Montez became the first tourists. In 1911, the Kolb brothers photographed the Colorado River. In the 1930's, Norman Nevills had the first commercial trip down the river.
Much of what John Wesley Powell explored is now underwater, along with ranches and other settlements along the river.
On October 15, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower pushed a button in the White House to set off the first blast of the United States Bureau of Reclamation project at Glen Canyon, 2100 miles away. The construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona in 1963 which, in effect, helped create Lake Powell, dramatically reduced the natural flow of sand and nutrients down the Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon.
Lake Powell is the second largest man-made lake in the United States. The scenery is almost indescribable with towering rock formations rising majestically straight up out of the water.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument is located about 50 miles up-lake from Glen Canyon Dam. It is the world's largest natural bridge and stands 290 feet high.
Lake Powell holds about 8.5 trillion gallons of water.
In March 1996, and then again in October 1997, the federal government released more than 100 billion gallons of water from Glen Canyon Dam. This artificial flood added more than three feet to some beaches along the Colorado River and cleared fish spawning grounds of debris and sediment.
The dam itself was erected with almost ten million tons of mixed concrete. It took seven years to complete.
Water started backing up behind the dam in 1963, and it took until 1980 for the water to reach its desired fullness. The water covered much of the Glen Canyon that John Wesley Powell had explored.
The hydroelectric power produced by Glen Canyon's eight generators is sufficient to meet the complete energy needs of a city of 1.5 million people.
Arizona's population of 4.2 million in 1995 is projected to grow to 6.4 million by 2025.
The cost of the dam was $155 million, and the cost of the power plant was $70 million.
The water of the Colorado River used to range from Freezing to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Now it is 45 degrees, dropping and rising only about 10 degrees all year. Some fish are now extinct or endangered because of this.
Four million people visit the lake each year for boating, fishing, water sports, sightseeing, and just recreation. Houseboat rentals are available at any of the four land-based marinas. There are often long waiting lists for rentals.