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By Motor to Rainbow Bridge

by The Simons Family

Anticipation is the beginning of any adventure, and we had long looked forward to the red rock formations and gleaming blue waters of Lake Powell. Only our second opportunity to board the new boat and get her under way, our anticipation included many unknowns, the unexpected, and the variable of weather. February at home in Colorado was a beautiful but frozen land of ice covered lakes and snow; pulling in to Page, AZ in short sleeves and sun glasses was a welcome change. Being determined to reach a destination 53 miles from the marina, having only three days to explore, and day one marked by battery difficulties, our plans to sail gave way to reaching Rainbow Bridge, and that meant motoring.

Arriving with a list of things to do in preparation, the list grew appreciably when we arrived at the dry storage yard 10 miles from the marina to find a flat tire on the trailer, dead batteries, and a thick coat of sand on everything. Our first outing with Miss Trudie had included battery problems, and I failed to totally disconnect both batteries when we left her in dry storage in November. I would later learn that one battery had a cracked case and slowly lost its acid. Anticipation began to give way to frustration, but the delay would only put us on the water in the early afternoon instead of the morning, don't worry, be happy! Now with boat cleaned, new cabin cushions unwrapped and in place, trailer tire repaired, new battery purchased, groceries and gear loaded, we pulled away from dry storage and reached the ramp at 2:30 PM, so much for plans!

There's nothing like a happy family and the fresh breeze of being under way to alleviate the morning's aggravations, and we set out on a virtually empty lake with ideal weather and warm temps, searching a nearby place to beach, bar-b-cue, and camp, making sure we stayed near assistance if our battery problems were not over. They weren't! The manual says you can rope start a 50 HP Johnson, but it isn't easy. The next morning found Cindy fixing breakfast, the kids searching for buried treasure on shore, and I frustrated once again with dead batteries. Using only one battery that would barely crank the engine we finally smiled at one another when the motor came to life, left it at idle to warm up, enjoyed breakfast, and got under way. Refusing to return to the marina for more power frustration, I chose to use the one battery that I knew was being charged, conserve our power use in the evenings, isolate the bad battery with the Perko switch, and figure out its problem when we got home. Rainbow Bridge National Monument was calling.

I had purchased and studied charts of the lake, and particularly the route to our destination, but I still was intrigued by a set of maps contained in Lake Powell Magazine which I saw and purchased at the marina gift shop, these proved to be extremely useful, and a manageable size for use in the cockpit. Taking the long way from Wahweap Marina around Antelope Island, we headed towards Glen Canyon Dam and cruised through the narrows past Navajo Canyon and up the main channel of the Colorado river into a sun drenched Gunsight Bay with a light breeze. No pictures can tell nor words describe the fantastic array of formations, colors, shadows, reflections, and hues that are Lake Powell, its beauty is engaging. Looking across the water in every direction there are little side canyons and bays, buttes and beaches that invite you to explore. Powell is labyrinth of unequaled proportion in inland waters.

Advancing at 12-14 MPH according to the GPS, we made the bend around Gooseneck Point, traversed Last chance Bay, and planned to reach Dungeon Canyon, 37 miles from the dam, by early evening and make camp. Charts listed Dungeon Canyon as excellent camping and we motored right up onto the beach with little trouble, although precise steering at low speeds is a challenge when water is too shallow to put down a rudder. That evening saw a great family meal, a brief fire on shore with sticks the kids had gathered, and a DVD on the laptop with close attention to power levels. Tomorrow we would make the goal of Rainbow Bridge.

9:00 AM found us at the deserted, but fortunately open, Dangling Rope Marina, only four miles from camp and accessible only by boat. After refueling while the kids fed the huge fish that hang around the marina like buzzards, we set out to cover the last 15 miles to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. The morning air was crisp and refreshing, cooler than the day previous, but still balmy compared to home. Just as the sign appears marking the turn off into Forbidding Canyon where Rainbow Bridge is found, the walls of the canyon began to rise higher and grow nearer to each other, towering over a narrow canal that is inspiring in its beauty. This great entrance only heightens the anticipation to first catch sight of the Bridge, and because we were the only boat there, the weather ideal, and the family on their first real boating adventure, the experience was priceless.

At first glimpse, all your expectations for the famous Rainbow Bridge are exceeded, it is truly impressive. Nestled in this small river canyon is a natural rock bridge almost as tall (290 ft) as the Statue of Liberty, 27 ft long, 30 ft wide and 40 ft thick, the world's largest natural stone bridge deserves its status as a National Monument. Teddy Roosevelt considered the trip worth 2 weeks on pack mules, and now the lake can float you to within 100 yards; I love this place! The whole family is riveted by the massive beauty of the bridge as we motor to the courtesy dock where only one other boat is present. The tour boat has not yet arrived and February is a great time to have the lake to yourself, as it were. Summer sees literally thousands of houseboats, innumerable motor boats, an abundance of PWCs, and even a few sailboats. In this whole trip we saw 4 other craft apart from those that crowd Wahweap Bay. Enjoying the solitude we stroll up the trail to the Monument watching the kids chase lizards and just soaking up the warmth of the day and the place; this is the substance of the best of memories.

After contemplating this gift from the creative hand of God, we thanked Him for enabling us to come here and moved back down the trail to find some lunch. Hating to leave but knowing we must, we again eased through the narrow battlements of Forbidding Canyon, set out into the open water, and returned to the marina for another round at over $2/gallon. Tonight's planned camp spot was 45 miles from Dangling Rope Marina, it was 2:00PM, and we wanted to secure camp before dark, so we motored at near full speed, 15-16mph according to the GPS, until our favorite seclusion came within view of the helm and the bow found her mark in the soft sand at a little after 5:00PM. Plenty of light for the kids to play for awhile, dinner on the bar-b-cue to be started, and a little R&R with Cindy gazing at the beauty of God's creation with a little Jazz for spice. If you haven't made Lake Powell yours, you're missing a wonderful place.

Email: The Simons Family

We purchased our 1996 MacGregor 26X from The Anchorage, (Lyons, CO), in November of 2001, and because of snow at home in Ouray, CO, we immediately took Miss Trudie to Lake Powell for a trial run. Lake Powell is located mostly in southern Utah, but the dam and nearest facilities is in Page, AZ.

Wahweap Marina, located near Page, is home to 1000 houseboats (no exaggeration) and many other small craft and PWCs. We have seen only two sailboats, and winds seemed to be rather erratic. Fall and winter is a good time to explore the lake without a lot of company, but water levels are low and extra caution is required, sandstone is still harder than fiberglass.

After three great adventures on the lake, both motoring and sailing, beginning from Wahweap Marina, we have now brought her home from dry storage at Lake Powell and put her in a slip here in Ridgway Reservoir, a small but beautiful San Juan mountain lake.

Ken, Cindy, Benjamin and Abagail Simons
Ouray, CO

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