Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Canyon

A place to ask about trips you're planning

Moderators: mje, chrstjrn, krudave

Post Reply
User avatar
kaace
forum fan
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:11 am

Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Canyon

Post by kaace »

Hi all, I'm going on a 2-week solo paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Canyon (LP/GC) starting next month. I'll be on my Klepper. The goal is to explore some of the slot canyons, hike, and just relax. I've done multiple overnight kayaking trips and longer self-supported backpacking stretches, but this will be my first time doing something so long with a kayak. In addition to phone calls and online research, I'm spending a full day in Page, AZ hoping to speak with folks about the trip, refining the rough itinerary, and just generally getting advice before I set out. I'd appreciate any and all advice from those of you with LP/GC experience. And if you're in or near Page and frequent LP, I'd love to meet!

My running list of questions right now are:
  • Are there currents on LP? Given LP/GC is just the Colorado River dammed up, I'm wondering if there are currents the further north from the dam you get. The National Park Service website warns of strong afternoon winds and flash flooding in the fall, but I haven't read anything about currents. In the videos I've seen the lake looks really serene. Is it really just a placid lake aside from the afternoon wind?
  • Are there any particular great slot canyons good for kayaking and camping?
  • Are there any slot canyons you would recommend avoiding as a kayaker?
  • How many miles of paddling do you think someone could rack up in a full day of paddling (let's say 6 hours of actual paddling for an average paddler)?
  • How bad are the "crowds" in the south? Will I be sharing beaches every night with a different party? Or will I be able to find some alone time? This video encapsulates everything I'd like to avoid on this particular trip :) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrgpYA6_79I
  • Any books, maps, blogs, or other websites you recommend? I've devoured the National Park Service's website a few times already and spoken with a park ranger. I also picked up Michael Kelsey's "Boater's Guide to Lake Powell" and that's been helpful. The only drawback is the last edition was published in 2015, and I've read that the water levels have been changing quite a bit each year for the last few decades. So I'm not sure how accurate it will be to plan an itinerary around for 2019. I also have the North Star Mapping map on LP/GC. The map has no publication date on it though, and some of the land markers do not look current (in comparison to Google Maps).
  • Who locally should I be sharing my float plan and emergency contact info. with? The park ranger I spoke with said the Visitor Center in Page would be the best place to leave it locally, but the question caught her off guard and she didn't sound confident.
  • I've read that LP/GC is a no-waste zone and I need to use wag bags. Do I need to use wag bags for pee as well as poop? Those bags are $3 each! Multiple bathroom breaks over a 14-day period would really add up.
  • In general, how is radio reception in the slot canyons? I'll be monitoring weather with a VHF radio.
  • Are there any great local kayaking resources (people, businesses, park rangers, etc.) in Page I should connect with/talk to before setting out?
  • Any other general tips/advice?


Also, for those of you interested, here's a nice and short recent documentary of a crew exploring Glen Canyon from the Colorado River in the north down to Glen Canyon Dam. Looks like they were in some way sponsored or affiliated with National Geographic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o87zW2BWCUo
--
Klepper Aerius I 450

DuraMike
paddler
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:21 pm
Location: Arizona

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by DuraMike »

Hi Kaace, Did you make the trip? I am curious as to what you learned and what you would recommend? I would like to paddle Lake Powell soon. Thanks!

Sagebrush
forum fan
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2018 9:28 pm

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by Sagebrush »

I have never kayaked LP, but we have spent several weeks at a time on the lake in our CDory. I’d recommend you order a Michael Kelsey’s Boating Lake Powell guide, and a copy of the Stan Jones map.

I prefer the upper portions of the lake, from Oak Canyon and up. Including the San Juan and Escalante Rivers. My preferred time to visit is late September and early to mid October. We launch at Bullfrog.

Some of the canyons have pump out stations with toilets, but you will want to have a wag bag system for most days on the water. A good water filter should keep you hydrated. Our last visit was September 2018, and I suspect it will be our final visit. The quagga mussel population has exploded, and the infestation is substantial. They are sharp, so good footwear is advised, and of course be cautious with the boat.

You’re still going to see a lost of boat traffic, much of it moving very fast. The canyon with rainbow bridge is VERY busy, and the wakes combined with vertical walls make it like being in a washing machine. I’d either avoid it, or paddle in/out at night. It’s just a few miles from Oak Canyon.

Fishing can be very good for striped bass and other warm water species. Jigs and spoons with a medium action spinning rod would be good for stripers, add some lures for smallies and largemouth if you’re interested in them.

So many of the canyons are spectacular it’s hard to pick a favorite.

Hope that helps

Steve

User avatar
kaace
forum fan
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:11 am

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by kaace »

@DuraMike, sorry for the delayed response. I'm just seeing your message now. And thanks for asking about the trip. It was really incredible! Happy to answer any follow-up questions on this thread too. I would love to see more kayakers out on LP!

Just FYI, there is a limit to how many words/character I can write per post, so I'm going to answer the above questions across a few separate posts. You can also see a few photos from the trip (in the Klepper!) here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/kQLmzrng4ZuWhoKy7

PART I

Are there currents on LP? Is it really just a placid lake aside from the afternoon wind?
No current or chop where I paddled. With the exception of wake created by boats, the lake was placid and serene the entire time. I did experience the afternoon wind, but the winds were never so strong that I felt at risk of tipping over. It could be that what I'm used to is different though. I usually paddle in the San Francisco Bay where 5-10 knots sustained is normal (and gusts well above that).

Are there any particular great slot canyons good for kayaking and camping?
I explored five -- West, Face, Labyrinth, Antelope, and Navajo -- and each one had its own charm. I think my favorite was West Canyon. Lots of places to pull over, hop out, and go for a hike.

Are there any slot canyons you would recommend avoiding as a kayaker?
If I had to do it over again, I would probably skip the bays (I paddled two bays as well as the slot canyons) and Antelope and Labyrinth Canyons. They were just really crowded with visitors. Once I got out into the other canyons the traffic lightened and I was able to enjoy the lake. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I saw Antelope and Labyrinth. I just found every single canyon to be incredible, so why bother dealing with boat traffic if you can avoid it? Worth mentioning that Antelope Canyon for paddling is different than THE Antelope Canyon for photoshoots. When the water line is higher you can access the narrow canyon by water. But for me on this trip the water line was too low.

How many miles of paddling do you think someone could rack up in a full day of paddling (let's say 6 hours of actual paddling for an average paddler)?
With no other responsibility than to paddle and enjoy the scenery, I ended up averaging ~11 miles a day. That included a couple days I took off. The last few days of the trip I was doing 16+ miles with ease but, of course, I had to build up to that (the biggest day ~23 miles).

How bad are the "crowds"? Will I be sharing beaches every night with a different party?
This was one of the most intriguing aspects of LP to me. The lake itself is just one giant playground for big and fast boats. But because the lake is so vast, I had no trouble slipping away and finding my own slice of peace and quiet. So I would say in the same breath that the lake is packed with boats but that there is also plenty of space for a kayak. If you really want to avoid boaters (which is a good idea, see below), schedule your trip to occur during the week with your weekends off. And to be extra safe, take a ferry a few out from the marina before you start the paddle. Doing those two things will avoid the vast majority of boat traffic.
--
Klepper Aerius I 450

User avatar
kaace
forum fan
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:11 am

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by kaace »

PART II

Any books, maps, blogs, or other websites you recommend?
For navigation and learning about LP, I'll echo @Sagebrush's recommendation. It won't win any design or creative writing awards (you'll see what I mean if you pick it up -- among other things, all the maps are hand drawn!), but Michael Kelsey's Boater's Guide to Lake Powell (https://www.amazon.com/Boaters-Guide-Po ... 0944510329) is packed with very practical information. The book actually started as a hiker's guide. But because most of the trails are only accessible by boat, he re-marketed it as a boater's guide. A couple notes on the book:
• I only fully appreciated Michael's book once I was in a slot canyon. He dives right into the details of where a trail or sight is and how to spot it. So if you're in a slot canyon, pull out his guide and you'll be on a great adventure. But just know it might not be much help until then.
•The book is pretty outdated. I only found a fraction of the recommendations he made on the 6th edition (and I was really looking with all the time in the world). I still had fun and learned a ton but just brace yourself that you might not find a cool sounding cattle trail he talks about. And if you do then it might not lead you to the gushing fresh water spring or Anasazi ruin.

If you're reading for fun, definitely pick up "The Monkey Wrench Gang" by Edward Abbey. I haven't read a book that funny, irreverent, or relevant in a long time. The story centers around the controversy of building the Glen Canyon Dam and it is a real cast of characters. Your library probably has a copy (it probably won't of Michael Kelsey's).

As for maps, I brought a few (all the ones I could get my hands on) and cross-referenced each one, which I found to be necessary (this included the Stan Jones map that @Sagebrush recommends, which did seem to be the favorite map among locals). Unique to LP is how drastically the water level (and thus the landscape) changes. Even a foot of water level change can expose entirely new land or water, so just be prepared for your actual route (and the landmarks you might be looking for) to look different than what you're planning for. This is more true for a kayak than a boat as you'll be planning your trip around (and be more dependent on) smaller landmarks, beachheads, and waterways.

I personally relied on a Nat Geo map the most (https://www.amazon.com/Glen-Canyon-Nati ... 0942927257). I found it to be the most accurate and detailed of all the maps… but even so, I found it was often inaccurate and I still had to cross-reference landmarks and features with other maps.

I also would recommend stopping in at a marina before you launch. They have maps you will not find online that show LP at different water marks. Those maps were gold but as far as I know not sold online.

Also worth mentioning: I had initially planned to download offline maps on my phone and just use the phone -- charged via solar -- to navigate. Alas, this never worked out. No app offers hi-resolution offline maps. It would take up too much space on your phone (you do not get service on LP). All the maps for phone are just low-resolution versions of what you see when you're connected to the internet. So do not rely on your phone or any premium map service. I trialed premium versions of Gaia and AllTrails without success.
--
Klepper Aerius I 450

User avatar
kaace
forum fan
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:11 am

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by kaace »

PART III

Who locally should I be sharing my float plan and emergency contact info. with?
I shared my put-in and takeout dates and a rough itinerary with a lady named Bonnie at the Antelope Point Marina. She runs the team that operates the Marina's ferries, so is a good contact to have. If you ever got stranded or needed rescue, her team would be the one to pick you up. She's worked at the marinas on the lake for a long time so I suspect if you're reading this within a few years of this post then she would still be there. You can reach her by calling Antelope Point Marina Services and asking the person there to patch you over to Bonnie: 928-645-5900.

Do I need to use wag bags for pee as well as poop?
Just poop! And fair warning if you've never carried these bags for an extended period before (I hadn't) -- the chemical smell is atrocious and will impregnate everything it comes in contact with. I kept the bags in a dry bag in the kayak for a few days before I realized that the smell was ruining the dry bags (yes, the smell was that bad!) and seeping into the kayak. It was truly awful. Bring a disposable water-tight container to put the bags in and strap it to the back of the kayak. Then just dispose the whole thing at the very end.

And yes, you must carry your waste the whole time. The toilet stations on the water are just very basic toilets that will -- by design -- not accept anything but human waste. In other words, you won't be able to throw your wag bag in the toilet and flush.

In general, how is radio reception in the slot canyons?
In the five I paddled through, reception was null to very limited. I didn't have any issues in the main channel.

Are there any great local kayaking resources (people, businesses, park rangers, etc.) in Page I should connect with/talk to before setting out?
The Glen Canyon Conservancy in Page was probably my favorite stop-in. It shares a wall with the Powell Museum (which was unfortunately closed for renovations when I went). It's staffed by local volunteers who can answer your questions about LP and the surrounding area (which is mostly Navajo land). Great information about the ecosystem on LP and they have a giant 3D map of the lake you can explore/appreciate before you set out.

I also thought the Carl Hayden Visitor Center (this is the name of the visitor's center on top of the Glen Canyon Dam) was informational.

Most kayak outfitters give tours on the Colorado River (south of the dam) or Escalante so I didn't get much information from them, though I did stop in at one and ask a few questions. They were nice but couldn't really answer specific questions about kayaking on LP.
--
Klepper Aerius I 450

User avatar
kaace
forum fan
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:11 am

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by kaace »

PART IV

Any other general tips/advice?
• Do not underestimate the heat! There really is nowhere for you to escape from sunup to sundown. You'll be facing direct sun exposure and the heat. I was prepared for sun exposure (two hats, gloves, SPF clothing, balaclava, glasses, etc.) but nothing can really prepare you for the heat. I found that being on the water was actually cooler than on land. There is no shade or trees out on the lake, so if you're hiding in the shade then you're probably standing on a rock that was already thoroughly baked by the sun. Take frequent breaks and swims.
• Avoid the weekends and holidays if possible. The chaotic wakes and waves created by boat traffic can be overwhelming for a kayak and, if you're stuck in a slot canyon, incredibly dangerous. I actually cut my trip short one day because the chop was so bad. It was the beginning of Labor Day and I *just* made it out of Navajo Canyon. The majority of boats slowed down when they saw me and passed at a distance, but a very large minority did not and left me to deal with a giant wake that kept rebounding from one end of the canyon to the other (it felt like I was in a washing machine and had no predictability over where the next wave would come from).
• Filter and treat your water if you're refilling water as you go. I went through 7+ liters of water a day (!). Bring a larger filter than I did too if you're going for multiple days. I brought a 2-liter gravity filter, so had more than 3 fill-ups to do. It was tedious and got old pretty fast.
--
Klepper Aerius I 450

Sagebrush
forum fan
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2018 9:28 pm

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by Sagebrush »

Sounds like you had a nice trip. Yes, the heat can be overwhelming. We always take a tarp and poles, lots of line and stakes that hold in the sand, so we can make our own shade. Our preference has been to go in late September and early October to avoid the high temps. The water is still around 70°, so swimming is pleasant. Speedboat traffic is also considerably less than summer months.

You can dump garbage, including wag bags, at any of the marinas. Dangling Rope is the most remote, also busy, since it’s the only fuel stop between Page and Bullfrog/Halls. Good places to get an ice cream on a hot day.

Did you see many quagga mussels? We were surprised and disappointed at the numbers in some of the canyons. When the water drops, they really stink up the place.

Thanks for your update!

Steve

User avatar
kaace
forum fan
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:11 am

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by kaace »

I did see quagga mussels but didn't experience any foul smells. But I also only saw five canyons, so my sample was pretty small. And yes, swimming was such a highlight. The water temperature could not have been better. Nothing like jumping into the lake after a full day paddling.

I too would probably go later in the year if I did this again. I didn't realize the boat traffic was less too, which would be an added incentive. And I also would probably try a different approach by either coming down Escalante and taking out at one of the marinas or launching from Bullfrog.
--
Klepper Aerius I 450

Sagebrush
forum fan
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2018 9:28 pm

Re: Seeking advice for 2-week paddle on Lake Powell/Glen Can

Post by Sagebrush »

The Escalante gets real thin in low water years. We’ve been up as high as Explorer Canyon several times, but could go no further. Some of the boats had Mokai with them, and they didn’t get much further. I’d research that trip carefully.

Post Reply

Return to “Questions and Trip Planning”