Lake Powell House Boating
What to bring and what to expect when planning a house boating vacation on Lake Powell. What to leave home: your worries!
There are very few places on earth where words are inadequate for description. Lake Powell is one of them.
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 perfect way to see and enjoy Lake Powell is via houseboat. Houseboats can be rented from one of the four grounded marinas at the lake. There are marinas at Wahweap, Halls Crossing, Bullfrog, at Hite. There are two other marinas, but rentals are not available there. The other marinas are mainly for fueling and restocking supplies. One of these is only accessible by water.
There is generally a long waiting list for houseboat rentals, so it is recommended you put in for a rental as soon as you know you can go. The waiting list often goes beyond a year for peak seasons, so if you're planning a summer vacation, you may have to book it a year or more in advance.
Houseboats come in 3 sizes and will sleep up to 12 or 14 adult passengers. During the day, space is not an issue, but at night, sleeping arrangements must be considered. It is also possible for some of the "crew" to bring sleeping bags and sleep up on the top deck of the houseboat under the stars.
The boats are a marvel of efficiency, using every available inch for a multitude of purposes. Seating areas become sleeping areas. Eating areas become sleeping areas. There is almost no wasted space in each houseboat. The houseboats are built like trucks and can withstand a lot. They ride up high on 2 multi-compartmental pontoons and can operate in surprisingly low water levels. They move pretty slow compared to other watercraft. They are relatively easy to operate except in strong wind and when the water is rough. They are efficient with heaters, water, bathroom facilities, and a functioning kitchen. The boats have a top deck for sunning, viewing, and for extra sleep space. Some houseboats have water slides. Some have screens. They are relatively easy to operate once the driver becomes accustomed to how they maneuver.
At check-in, an instructor will explain how everything on the boat operates. He will give a quick 'how to' lesson which supposedly turns the novice into an instant houseboat expert.
Some houseboaters prefer using their week on Lake Powell to explore as much as they can. They want to visit each cove and see each point of interest. Others like to find a spot and stay for the week. It’s possible to rent skiffs, powerboats, and water toys to drag alongside the boat for side trips if you’re planning on staying in one area. People come back year after year and go straight to their favorite spots.
It is suggested that a waterproof map of the lake be purchased and looked at prior to leaving.
It is important to be sure to find a place to dock each night before dark. Places fill up quickly in peak season and it’s not fun to search and anchor your houseboat at nightfall.
With the lake as large as it is, it is easy to see a storm coming. Lake Powell has been known to have some incredible storms with winds and waves getting extremely strong. It is safer within the canyons rather than on the main part of the lake. If a storm is coming, find a place to anchor securely and wait it out. They are rarely dangerous and you will never see anything else quite like it. Experiencing Lake Powell without living through a flash storm is missing a lot.
It is advised that renters learn the rules of navigation before stepping onto a houseboat.
The six marinas offer most services and needs while you’re on your houseboat, including gas and supplies. This is also where houseboaters go for assistance. Many boaters bring a week’s worth of food with them to enjoy the leisurely life of the gourmet while away. There is a stove and a barbeque, and the kitchens are adequately stocked for most every need. The marinas also have bait, tackle, permits, and water toys for most tastes.
When houseboating on Lake Powell, bring everything you think you'll need, even down to a deck of cards and a Scrabble board. Just remember to leave your cares at home.