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Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

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Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

I am organizing a Tuesday-Saturday trip to Lake Powell at the end of June for my boy scouts. I've been to Lake Powell before, but always stayed on a houseboat. We will be tent camping, for, well, boy scout reasons. Coming from San Diego, CA. I'll have 3 ski boats that I'll use to hall gear and people (and bathroom). I've never done Lake Powell tent camping. My concerns are the following:

1. Location--Can anyone recommend a good location for me to take these boys? I'd like solitude (mainly for everyone else's sake), and close enough to be able to refuel from day to day and do some hiking, check out some slot canyons. We'll be water skiing and wake boarding, tubing mostly every day. Would like a good cove where we can set up some waterpolo games. It would be nice to have a place with some afternoon shade.

2. The main channel--I remember the main channel being very choppy, and having to go really slow to get through it. Will I be ok in 3 20-22 ft Nautiques traversing through the Lake?

3. Fuel--I always refueled from the houseboat in the past, and took the houseboat in every few days to dump, fuel up, and get more ice. Any tips on how to make sure I'll have plenty of gas for skiing and exploring each day?

4. Marina and timing--I'm hoping to leave at 4:00 am from San Diego, make the drive, and get to our cove the same day. Is this feasible? Should I take off from Wahweap or Antelope Point marina? Will it be too difficult to find a spot heading out between 2-3 on Tuesday afternoon?

I appreciate whatever advice you can give me to help me plan this trip. I want to give my boys the best time possible, and let's face it, Lake Powell can be heaven on earth. Unfortunately I can't steal them away for an entire week like I'd like, and I can't do the houseboat. So I'm forced to do this a little differently than my ideal. Thanks for the help experts!!

Steve

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San Diego
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Salt Lake City, Utah
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1. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

To answer your questions.

1. Because of fluctuating water level at Lake Powell, it's difficult to provide a specific place to beach. What was a good beach last year may be under water this year or be too high and dry to provide good camping. You will find the most beaching opportunities around Padre Bay, 27 miles up the lake. West, Face and Labryinth canyons are on the right side of the bay. Gunsight, and Kane Wash are on the left side. You'll have to use your boats to scout and explore for beaches. We particularly like Kane Wash which is behind Cookie Jar butte. If the water level is right, there's a lot of expansive beaches. There isn't any through boat traffic because it's a small bay. But you may end up sharing the area with houseboats.

2. Yes, the main channel is choppy. You will have to use the main channel to get anywhere up lake. Use your best judgement. I've seen 20' boat barreling up the channel at full speed.

3. After you leave Wahweap, the only option for refueling and ice will be a Dangling Rope marina which is about 50 miles up lake. I have no tips on how to be sure you have enough gas for water skiing every day, other than to plan on heading to Dangling Rope and finding places to water ski in route - killing two birds with one stone.

4. I guess you know that you are looking at a 9 hour plus drive, no stops for anything, from San Diego to Page. That time is based on a passenger car maintaing highway speeds. Your drive will be slower caravaning 3 speed boats. Surely you plan on feeding those ever hungry boy scouts and letting them use a bathroom once in awhile? Everything will have to go perfectly for you the entire drive to arrive at a marina, launch 3 boats and be underway by 3 PM. I think that you're a bit optimistic. Maybe you should reserve a campsite or two at the campground near Wahweap Marina and head up lake on Wednesday morning.

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2. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

Connie's advice is good... I'll add my two cents:

1. Location. As Connie says, it's hard to be specific because conditions change. But in general, since you plan to use those boats a lot as a base, it makes sense to be relatively near Dangling Rope Marina, which is about 40 miles north of Wahweap. I know there are a handful of small unnamed coves in that vicinity, and at least one or two within a mile north of the marina on the opposite (east) side of the lake that might provide enough solitude, though I'm not sure how extensive the beach area is for your group to set up tents. You'll need to do some scouting, but fortunately, that's what you guys do! Other decent options in the vicinity of the marina include the mouth of Dungeon Canyon, Cornerstone Canyon, Grotto Canyon, Weatherill Canyon, Friendship Cove, and possibly Dry Fork Rock Creek to the south; or Balanced Rock or Mountain Sheep Canyon to the north, though these latter two are less promising.

2. The main channel. Yes, it can be choppy, but your boats will be fine. It's smoothest early in the morning, so would suggest getting an early jump on long distance travel. The choppiest part of the lake (IMO) is the narrow section between Antelope Point Marina and Padre Bay, because of heavy boat traffic in a confined channel.

3. Fuel. Having a base camp near Dangling Rope Marina is the best way to make sure you have plenty of fuel for each day without going out of your way too much to get it. Would also consider taking along a spare gas can or two in case you get in trouble and lose track of where you are...

4. Marina and timing. Because the Castle Rock Cut is open, the distance uplake from either Antelope Point or Wahweap is the same. However, you'll be able to make slightly better time from Antelope because you won't have to slow down through Castle Rock Cut. If you leave at 2-3 PM, and keep the throttle open, you ought to be able to be in the vicinity of Dangling Rope by 5, which is pushing it in terms of finding a decent spot. Perhaps you stop earlier the first night, maybe in Padre Bay, but better farther north f you can, either near the mouth of West Canyon, Friendship Cove, or just inside Rock Creek. I'd get an earlier start if you can. You're scouts--you'll figure it out.

Good luck!

Edited: 28 March 2018, 23:50
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3. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

Lot's of great advice above!

Having boat-camped on Lake Powell pretty much my whole life (until we got a houseboat a few years ago), your primary concern quickly becomes fuel. In a 22' boat you might have 50 gallons (often less). Depending on your engine/hull setup, you'll likely burn 10-12 gallons per hour at cruising speed (3000-3500 RPMS). Depending on prop size/pitch, those RPMS will translate into 20-30 MPH. That's on a boat containing just people. Once you add a few days' worth of gear and food, your trip up lake on the first day - and down lake on the last - will be fuel burners.

Given the above, on the south end of the lake, I'd recommend staying at Lone Rock - or - pushing all the way to Dangling Rope. Stopping pretty much anywhere in between will have you nervous about how much might be left in the tank for water sports and sight-seeing while still leaving enough to travel to the nearest marina.

Taking into account the possibility for a late arrival (complications departing or along the way), I'd probably stay at Lone Rock or another nearby location on the first night. You can probably get your camp set up and still have some great recreational time that same day. It would also be beneficial if you happen to have any boat issues during the first few hours on the lake. Then head up lake the next morning, grab an awesome campsite, visit Rainbow Bridge, and refuel for watersports, etc. I'd also recommend refueling late Friday for your trip back on Saturday. Again, if there are any complications on the multi-hour return trip, you don't want to be worried about having enough fuel.

Finally, taking Scouts to Lake Powell is one of the highlights of my entire life. So great to experience the lake I love through their eyes - especially if they've never been before. Best wishes for an awesome trip!

-Bart

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4. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

Great perspective and gas consumption information from Bart. I like his idea of pitching tents near Lone Rock if you get a late start on Tuesday afternoon... You'd still have a fun afternoon, you'd be near Wahweap Marina for any last minute provisions you forgot beaus you were in a hurry, and you could get gas right before you head uptake Wednesday morning. I think this is a really good option...

...and totally agree that you are not served well by camping halfway between Wahweap and Dangling Rope, except possibly on the first night if you wanted to get a jump up the lake to shorten your trip north on Wednesday.

In any case, I'd get gas whenever the opportunity presents itself (i.e., whenever you pass Dangling Rope), and be strategic on how you plan your days so there's not a lot of backtracking the wastes fuel...

Also note that if you do find yourself up the Escalante River exploring (a nice idea--multiple awesome hikes from a powerboat, including Davis, Willow, and Fifty-Mile canyons, not to mention Cathedral-in-the-Desert), keep in mind that from the mouth of the Escalante, it's about equidistant to the nearest gas stations north or south--Halls Crossing about 25 miles north, and Dangling Rope about 25 miles south--so there's no "savings" trying to get gas at Halls Crossing unless you plan to keep moving in that direction for some reason...

Edited: 29 March 2018, 05:12
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5. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

Great information from Bart and JFR. I agree that camping at Lone Rock Beach would be a good option for your first arrival day. Those scouts may be antsy to be out of the cars and playing in water at that point. You can camp right on the beach. If the weather's good, you wouldn't need to bother to put up tents that night. They could sleep under the stars.

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6. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

...or rather then camping at Lone Rock Beach (which can get crowded), take the boats across that arm of the lake and camp near the mouth of Lone Rock Canyon...

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7. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

Ok, so you guys have all been awesome. Your advice is exactly what I was hoping for. On point!

Connie--I do tend to be a little unrealistic in my haste to get on the lake. Thanks for bringing me back down to earth! My boys do love sleeping under the stars. Do you recommend staying in Padre Bay, or closer to Dangling Rope? I'd like to camp in a place close to where I could ski early in the morning and late before the sun sets.

John--Lone Rock Canyon--perfect solution. Focus on the drive the first day, launch and set up camp in a convenient little cove for the night, then be ready with fresh fuel to head up the lake early the next morning to find camp for the next 3 nights closer to Dangling Rope Marina. I'm thinking Wetherill or somewhere around Rock Creek Bay. Should be able to find some afternoon shade around there no? I imagine each day like this: get up with the sun, ski, back for breakfast, ski until the water gets bad, pack a lunch, refuel if needed and explore/hike until a few hours before sunset--ski, eat, campfire, sleep, repeat. Looks like I should target West canyon, Hole in the Rock, and Rainbow bridge for some nice hikes when the water gets choppy. Do they have firewood at Dangling Rope Marina?

Bart--Exactly. Fuel is the #1 concern. Really appreciate your perspective since you've done it so many times boat camping. I'd really like to be able to find a cove that would be inaccessible by a houseboat. You know, take advantage of the fact that we're smaller--use it to our advantage. Any favorite spots you've boat camped in the past that would keep us away from houseboats? I know it is an ever changing lake, I'd just like to know where to start looking. I'd also like to camp in a place close to where I could ski early in the morning and late before the sun sets. Any other tips or recommendations on how to make the trip unforgettable for my scouts?

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8. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

I wish I could say that's possible and tell you exactly where, but I can't. A houseboat does have some limitations, but can dock into a moderate hillside, rocky shore (within reason), etc. You are going to want somewhere flat for tents, cooking, etc. And with a manageable shoreline for your boats.

You'll generally have more shade on the west shores and canyons (but not always). You are heading into Powell at high season. Seclusion is possible, but may take longer to find than you're willing to invest.

Approaching Dangling Rope, I suggest you start checking out canyons. If you have three boats, you can split up and meet back in the main channel and compare your findings (maybe take pictures with your phones). The sweet spot for you will be somewhere between Rock Creek Bay and Oak Creek Bay. That way you're basically always within ~10 miles of fuel (and ice cream). As for water sports, those two bays should both be great most of the time. And I find that even the main channel is doable in the early and late hours of the day.

Just thinking about it makes me excited for you. I'm jealous. You should have a great time!

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9. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

I agree with Bart on the "sweet spot" for you being between Rock Creek and Oak Bay. Also note that on that stretch the lake is trending generally west to east, so the canyons here are generally north-south, meaning you get more afternoon shade on the right side of canyons to your right (heading uplake), and the left side of canyons to your left.

I do think there are a few smaller coves in this stretch that do not have names, but can be seen on a good topo map that are perfect for just one houseboat or perhaps a group like yourself. Once there,I think you'll be able to see if you're going to have seclusion or not. I do think one advantage of three skiboats is that if you space them out in your general area, you create a larger "personal space" that will discourage others from parking nearby. I also think if you avoid the obvious places where houseboats like to go (i.e., Padre Bay, Dungeon Canyon, Friendship Cove, Oak Bay), you should have no trouble finding a good spot for a group like yours. Another big advantage you have over a houseboat is that the actual landing site can be very small, whereas for a houseboat it needs to be flat and wide enough for the anchor lines to stretch out. Use this advantage, which will automatically keep others out. And in such places, you often can find a sandy spot for tents up on a bench, perhaps only a few feet over the lake line, which may have been there when the lake was slightly higher...

And bring binoculars. They will help you scout the shoreline for spots...

Edited: 30 March 2018, 07:30
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10. Re: Camping without a houseboat on Lake Powell

I defer to the expert advice that you’ vet been given by JFR and Bart.

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