Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Lake Powell - Then and Now

Lake Powell in 1985

Lake Powell in 2005
Click On the Images for An expanded view.

Twenty Years ago, in 1985, I traveled to Southern Utah. One of the places I stopped was Wahweep Marina, on Lake Powell, near Page, Arizona. Things were quite different then. We had just come through the extremely wet years of 1983 and 1984 - the years of the floods in Salt Lake City. Lake Powell was nearly full. I visited there in the fall of the year, and I remember that the Lake was only 10-15 feet from its maximum level. Today, it is some 185 feet down from the top.

The two photos above illustrate the difference between then and now. The top photo, taken in 1985 was taken from nearly the same position as the bottom photo, taken last week. In both photos, you can see Navajo Mountain in the background as a reference point. On the more recent photo, nearly everything from the half-way point on down was under water in 1985.

From what we learned on our recent trip, Lake Powell is filling up by about 18 inches per day . However it would take two or three more years of above-normal precipitation to completely fill it up again, because of the water that will be drawn down to meet contractual water obligations downstream, and the need to generate hydroelectric power.

Back in 1985, I took a boat ride out to Rainbow Bridge.

Rainbow Bridge circa 1985

As you can see, the water was right up to Rainbow Bridge, and even went under it. Nowadays, with the lake level so low, the water is nowhere near the Bridge. If you take a boat ride out there, be prepared for a hike to the Bridge.

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