Interesting facts about Lake Powell

lake powell

Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River.

The lake is located mainly in southeastern Utah, with a small part in northeastern Arizona in the United States.

Lake Powell is named for explorer John Wesley Powell, a one-armed American Civil War veteran who explored the river via three wooden boats in 1869.

It is the second largest man-made reservoir by maximum water capacity in the United States behind Lake Mead.

Lake Powell has a maximum capacity of 30 cubic kilometers (7.2 cubic miles) or 30 trillion liters (7.9 trillion gallons).

It has a surface area of 653 square kilometers (252 square miles).

The lake is roughly 300 kilometers (186 miles) long and 40 kilometers (25 miles) across at its widest point.

lake powell map

The lake’s average depth is 40 meters (132 feet), while the maximum depth is 178 meters (583 feet).

The surface of Lake Powell is about 1,130 meters (3,700 feet) above sea level.

Lake Powell has a retention time (the measurement of time that water spends in a particular lake) of
7.2 years.

The lake has 3,057 kilometers (1,900 miles) of shoreline.


Lake Powell was created by the flooding of Glen Canyon by the Glen Canyon Dam. Glen Canyon was carved by differential erosion from the Colorado River over an estimated 5 million years.

The lake’s main body stretches up Glen Canyon, but has also filled many (over 90) side canyons.

Glen Canyon Dam was born of a controversial damsite the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation selected in Echo Park, in what is now Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado.

Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam. The 220-meter (710-foot) high dam was built by the Bureau from 1956 to 1966.

glen canyon dam

Since first filling to capacity in 1980, Lake Powell water levels have fluctuated greatly depending on water demand and annual runoff.

Lake Powell is a water storage facility for the Upper Basin states of the Colorado River Compact (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico).

During years of drought, Lake Powell guarantees a water delivery to the Lower Basin states (Arizona, Nevada, and California), without the need for rationing in the Upper Basin. In wet years, it captures extra runoff for future use.

The dam is also a major source of hydroelectricity, averaging over 4 billion kilowatt hours per year.

The Hite Crossing Bridge is the only bridge spanning Lake Powell. The bridge informally marks the upstream limit of Lake Powell and the end of Cataract Canyon of the Colorado River, but when the lake is at normal water elevation, the water can back up over 48 kilometers (30 miles) upstream into Cataract Canyon.

hite crossing bridge

In 1972, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was established. It is a recreation and conservation unit of the National Park Service that encompasses the area around Lake Powell and lower Cataract Canyon in Utah and Arizona, covering 507,650 hectares (1,254,429 acres) of mostly desert.

Rainbow Bridge is one of the most accessible of the large arches of the world. It can be reached by a two-hour boat ride on Lake Powell from either of two marinas near Page, Arizona, followed by a mile-long walk from the National Park wharf in Bridge Canyon, or by hiking several days overland from a trailhead on the south side of Lake Powell.

rainbow bridge

Lake Powell is a major vacation spot that around two million people visit every year.

The long and winding Lake Powell, known for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities including houseboating, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, boating, water skiing and jet skiing.


Lake Powell is also a popular fishing destination and success is usually very good for striped bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, channel catfish, northern pike and bluegill.

Amenities and facilities at Lake Powell include six marinas, two visitor centers, permanent mooring for more than two thousand private vessels, restaurants, lodging, RV facilities, and campgrounds. There are convenient services, and that includes the availability of boat rentals and houseboat rentals at the dockside and dry boat storage, water sports gear, fishing, general merchandise, groceries and guided tours.

Access to the lake is limited to developed marinas because most of the lake is surrounded by steep sandstone walls.

Lake Powell National Golf Course Championship is an 18-hole course sitting on a high mesa overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, and Vermillion Cliffs.

Lake Powell has been a shooting location for many television series and films, including: Gravity (2013), John Carter (2012), Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut and The Wedding of River Song (2011), Walking with Monsters (2005) – the BBC prequel to Walking with Dinosaurs as a stand-in for inland Silurian, Evolution (2001), Planet of the Apes (both 1968 and 2001 versions), Maverick (1994), Koyaanisqatsi (1982).