I knew that Lake Powell was named for John Wesley Powell, the intrepid, 19th century explorer. What I didn’t know until I visited nearby Page, Ariz., was that his treacherous explorations of the Colorado River were particularly remarkable because he had lost his left arm in a Civil War battle. The building of Glen Canyon Dam in 1966 tamed the river and created the lake that is a boater’s dream — whether explored by kayak or houseboat.
The tab for two, excluding transportation: $184 for a lake-view room at Lake Powell Resort, $50 for dinner at Big John’s Texas Barbeque and $400 for a half-day powerboat rental.
The Lake Powell Resort provides comfortable shore-side accommodations. (You pay more for a water view.) But I learned that stunning bedside views are available from the dozens of houseboats at local marinas. Minimum three-night rentals range from $1,625 for a 46-foot Expedition that sleeps six at the Lake Powell Marinas to $2,295 nightly for a wheelchair-friendly, 75-foot Platinum that sleeps 12 at the Antelope Point Marina. All have indoor and outdoor seating, cozy bedrooms and full kitchens; the most luxurious have hot tubs.
If you’re not cooking on your houseboat’s grill, head to Big John’s Texas Barbeque, where a native Texan slow-cooks beef brisket, chicken, pork ribs and more on the forecourt of an old gas station. The baby back ribs ($23.50 full rack with sides) were tender and tasty, especially with extra sauce. If you can’t decide, settle on the “sampler” ($18.75 with sides).
Powell would have been awed by Tower Butte, which still dazzles modern-day visitors, including me. The 5,276-foot monolith rises on Navajo land and is accessible only by helicopter. Tour operator Papillon offers trips from Page that soar over the lake before landing atop the butte with its 360-degree views. Flights from $239 per person.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Page and Lake Powell, once primarily summer destinations, are now seeing growing numbers of visitors during the spring and fall. The marinas stay open year-round, although the highs in December and January average 45 degrees. In the slower months, it may seem as if you have the 180-mile-long lake all to yourself as you explore or drop anchor in a hidden cove.
Lake Powell Resort, 100 Lakeshore Drive, Page, Ariz.; (888) 896-3829
Lake Powell Marinas, (888) 896-3829
Antelope Point Marina, (800) 255-5561
Big John’s Texas Barbeque, 153 S. Lake Powell Blvd., Page, Ariz.; (928) 645-3300. Wheelchair accessible.
Papillon, Page Municipal Airport, 238 10th Ave., Page, Ariz.; (888) 735-7272