Lake Powell -- November 7th - 11th 2008




A trip report is detailed below, or you can just skip to see an album linked here.

This was another trip that was on the drawing board for more than 2 years. The timing was never right in the past, but this year we made it work! Steve from Santa Fe was supposed to go, but he couldn't make it, so I was the only person in the NM contingent. The rest of the gang drove in from Tucson. My friend Brian came along with co-workers Marisa, Mindy, and Dennis. Dennis, who recently retired, drove his Suburban and Marisa drove her Jeep. The plan was to meet up at Halls Crossing on the morning of November 7th.




November 6th 2008

I left the night before after work and drove late into the night.  Halls Crossing is on the upper end of Lake Powell in Utah, and was about a 7 hour drive for me.  About midnight I was too tired to keep going and I stopped in Valley of the Gods Utah to camp.  I drove a few miles into the loop road and pulled into a spot, rolled out my bed in the back, and was fast asleep.

November 7th 2008

Being my first time in Valley of the Gods, sunrise was quite a treat, though the morning was bitter cold and the truck was covered in ice. The place really lives up to its name.  I took my time leaving admiring the formations and snapping a few photos. This was going to be a cold-weather trip I was thinking to myself at the time.

The next treat came when I approached the Moqui Dugway switchbacks.  Highway 261 turns to dirt for the steep narrow switchbacks and the views were spectacular.  I did a quick Google search and there is a YouTube video of the Moqui Dugway, in fact several, but this one is funny because it was made by some Japanese tourists driving the Dugway:



Now I was running late, so I made my way north and then back west toward Powell.  I rolled into Glen Canyon Dam National Recreation Area a little after nine and met everyone else soon after.  The elevation had dropped quite a bit getting to the lake and the temperature was actually nice, so I hoped the nights wouldn't be quite as cold as what I had in Valley of the Gods.  I have traveled with Brian and Marisa several times and we are good friends, but Mindy and Dennis were new travel partners and they were super cool. 

I had pre-arranged with folks at the Bullfrog office of the park for us to put in at the ferry ramp instead of the main ramp.  This way we wouldn't have to paddle all the way around the marina from the main boat launch.  This worked out well, since this time of year the ferry was slow, so we had the ferry ramp to ourselves to load the boats and launch.

My gear was in disarray, and it took me a while to organize.  This was my first time camping out of the kayak, so trying to fit 5 days of provisions was proving to be challenging!  Tent, sleeping bag, pad, clothes, boots, sandals, food, water, headlamp, backpack, water filter, paddling gear, binos, i-pod, speakers, extra blankets, cameras, liquor, firewood, liquor, some wine, and a little more liquor, was a lot to fit in this small boat!!!


My boat was the heaviest it’s ever been and I was worried how it would ride, but once I was in the water I was very impressed.  It was as stable as ever, though I was riding lower in the water than I normally do.  I named my boat the “party barge” for this trip.  :)


Picture by Brian Jones:


The plan was to make a big paddle on day 1 to get us upstream to Forgotten Canyon, where we would explore a few days, then work our way back.  So this first day we were set to paddle about ten miles, so it was a little bit of work. 


This map shows generally where we stayed each night. Clickable to a larger version.


Kayaking Lake Powell in the off season is the only way to do it in my opinion.  There was not one jet-ski and we rarely saw another boat.  The water was smooth as glass on the first day as we made our long paddle. 


After a few stops, a lunch break, and an otherwise steady pace, we arrived at the mouth of Forgotten Canyon 10 miles up river after about 5 hours.  Near the mouth of the canyon there was a nice flat shelf that looked like it would make a decent camp and the take-out wasn’t all that bad. 


It was a comfy camp.  We listened to music, drank lots of cocktails, and told stories until late in the night… 


November 8th 2008

The next day we headed into Forgotten Canyon.  The middle branch goes back to some interesting ruins called the Defiance House ruins.

The early morning light was striking against the cliff walls. 


At the back of the canyon where we took out there was a resident beaver.  Brian got a good photo of it.

Hey, nice beaver! ;-)

The ruins were close by.


The old room has been rebuilt by the Park Service.


We decided to hike up the canyon to get to some spring water that was supposed to be up more so we could filter water.  There was a lot of sign of activity from the busy beaver.


The hike was beautiful. We went up a few miles to the end of the canyon where it cliffed out.  We filtered some water and headed back to the boats. 


The second night on our elevated campsite was fun, but I went to bed earlier with a little less to drink on this night. :) 


November 9th 2008

The plan was to break camp, load up and cross the channel and paddle up Smith Fork Canyon as far as we could, then hiking on up to a section of slot canyon. 

We had some weather move in today, mostly just clouds, so far no wind.  It made for poor picture taking though, I was missing that nice deep blue sky.  Here is a little video of the paddle that morning. Movie (38MB) These work best to Save As on your drive, then play.



Here is a goofy short video as we neared the end of the canyon. Movie (19 MB)

This is where we ran out of water and started the hike.  


The canyon slowly narrowed into a slot as we hiked. 


This was my first real slot canyon hike and I was impressed.  I’d like to do more in the future. 


We made our way back to the boats and then tried to cover some miles.  We had to get back out to the main channel, then we wanted to make it about half way back, so we had a lot of ground to cover. 

Photo: Brian Jones


We found a great camp on a sandy beach right at dark. 


November 10th 2008

We woke up to the sound of wind!  The marginal weather finally brought the wind.  We still had several miles to get to Moqui Canyon along the main channel and this was going to be a fun.  We worked our way downriver and the boats handled well.  I have to say, Dennis is a real worker.  This guys was in an older, smaller, recreational boat without a rudder and he was wearing a jean jacket and blue jeans the whole time!  He did great though and he handled the wind as well as us in the larger boats. 


After a few hours we made the turn into Moqui and paddled deep into the canyon.  The steep walls of Powell are incredible.  This overhanging wall was simply too large to really capture in an image.  This photo and video (25 MB) give you some idea of the magnitude. 


After another couple of miles we arrived at a nice sandy beach and made camp. 


Unfortunately, this beach sees a lot of use in the high season and it was hard to find a suitable place to put a tent that didn’t have trash, and in many places, human waste.  Sometimes humans baffle me. 


After we made camp, we set off again to explore deeper into Moqui Canyon.  There were more ruins that we wanted to find. 


The ruins in Moqui are pretty high up on the canyon, and not easily accessible, unless you like scary heights.  I opted not to climb up to these.  The second shot below is a zoom.


We kept going, just exploring since we had the time. 


There were springs seeping into the canyon in many places along the way up. 


We also saw signs of cattle in this canyon.  They are probably feral cattle and not supposed to be here.


We made our way back to the boats and back to camp before dark.  We made a nice large fire because we had a lot of driftwood and firewood left over that we had brought.  I took the opportunity to burn all the refuse on the beach that I could find, trying to clean it up a bit.  The cans and bottles I took in my boat back with me.  I also burned a lot of the non-native tumbleweed that was on the beach.  Each tumbleweed produces hundreds of thousands of seeds and I was trying to do my part.  I also am a fire bug, and tumbleweeds burn nicely! 


Mindy took this crazy picture of me after I threw another huge tumbleweed on the fire.  The look of pure joy is on my face.  ;)



November 11th 2008

The morning was calm and the wind was gone and the sky was once again blue.  We loaded up for the final haul back to the dock.  It was a few miles out to the main channel, then a few back to the trucks from there.


Before we loaded up, we took a nice group shot with everyone next to their boat.


Left to right:  Mindy, Brian, Me, Dennis, and Marisa.  (Photo: Brian Jones)


Back at the marina store I was able to get a caffeinated drink which I was desperately craving!  After our goodbyes, I took off for my long drive home and the Tucson folks were heading south to camp one more night and do some more exploring. 


Another fun trip in the books…. 

Brian has a trip report on his website too:






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