I spent all week preparing for the trip. I started
cooking the week before the trip. I prepared Mesquite grilled chicken with 5
bean chili, garden fresh vegetables and herb, Marinara sauce with pork sausage
and garden fresh vegetables and herb as well as Mesquite broiled pork shoulder
pressure cooked and flavored with garden fresh spices and herb. I brought a rib
steak dinner for one night and rosemary lime chicken for another night. We had
fresh catfish blackened or fried one night which Don caught fishing.
left Friday night around 8:30. ETD was 7:30 but Bill was late. We arrived
Needles around midnight. Don, Patrick, Bill and I shared a room. Marilin,
Margie and Andy shared another one. We got up early and drove to Kingman. We
ate breakfast and then drove to Flagstaff. Got gas in Flagstaff and drove to
Page arriving about 2:00. Went out for early dinner at a Mexican food
restaurant. Later we went over to take care of paperwork at the rental agency.
We walked around on the dock and were able to see a houseboat similar to the
one we were getting. We scoped out the town for Lake Powell information,
opening times of local establishments and did some last minute shopping.
Retired early so we would be ready to get the boat early.
Patrick and I
had an early breakfast at Denny's then went down to the lake. We watched the
sun rise over the lake. Patrick and I were at the dock before 7:00, the
official opening time. We were the first. Our boat appeared nearly new and was
definitely in better condition than some others. We spent over an hour in
orientation. Finally we were able to go to the loading dock.
arrived at the loading dock there was only two other boats. We spent the next
two hours loading up. As we were loading another house boat grazed us. He left
before us and hit us leaving as well. By the time we were finished there was
thirty boats and three hundred people. Bill and Don went for more ice and we
had to wait for them for another half hour. It felt good to finally get out of
the marina and on the open water.
The house boat was very different to
drive. You had to turn the wheel several times to get full turning. The boat
had a Mono hull instead of pontoons. It responded better than pontoon boats
because it rode so high out of the water. The wind could catch it easily so you
had to keep your hands on the wheel at all times making minor adjustments. The
Mono hull also gave our boat greater speed than pontoon boats.
the throttles to max. and took off traveling about 10 miles an hour. It was
powered by two 115 horsepower motors with individual throttles. The dual
throttle made it possible to make tricky maneuvers. We motored up the Lake to a
small cove at the mouth of Labyrinth Canyon. There was a rock island in the
center of it so I pulled up to it and we tied off the boat. Andy and I went
swimming. There was a slide on the back of the houseboat and we tried it out.
Don and I took a short canoe ride around the island and a short way up
the canyon. Don kept trying to steer from the front and just about upset the
canoe a couple of times.
We continued on up the lake toward the Rock
Creek fingers. We were going to camp in Dry Rock Creek Canyon but there was
already quite a few other people there so we went up the Middle fork instead.
At the end of the fork there was an alluvial fan that came down to the water
so we beached it there.
Andy and I went for a hike to the top of the
hill were we could see the end of the lake backing up the canyon. The terrain
was spectacular with a balancing rock, a narrow canyon winding through
sandstone monoliths, and a huge cliff ringing the whole area. I wanted to
explore further but it was getting late so we returned to the boat.
Later in the evening Bill and I were sitting on the hillside above the beach.
The sky was full of stars. The Milky Way burned a path across the sky. There
air was as crisp and clear as the air on the top of the mountains. As I looked
up into the sky the largest and brightest meteor fall I have ever seen
occurred. The "shooting star" crossed the sky arching about two thirds of the
way across the sky. At first I thought it was going to burn out but it
continued to grow in brightness until it lite up the whole sky and the
surrounding terrain as bright as the moon would. It was awe inspiring.
The next morning we got up early and started out. We motored up to Dangling
Rope Marina and topped off the gas and oil. Bringing the houseboat into the
dock was nerve racking but by the end of the trip I was a professional. I
actually brought the boat in better than most people. While we were on the dock
one houseboat rammed the dock and just about knocked us off our feet.
We headed out toward Rainbow bridge after refilling. As we got further up the
lake the cliffs started rising on either side. We finally made it to the
entrance to Forbidding Canyon and started up it. The cliffs here were over a
hundred feet tall and the canyon was so narrow at some places that two
houseboats couldn't go through at the same time. When we got to the end of the
canyon we saw that their was only one place to dock the houseboat. After some
tricky maneuvering I brought it in perfectly. We all hiked up toward Rainbow
Bridge and took some photos of it. We ate lunch and then started out again
hoping to get to a good camp site.
Reflection Canyon was our
destination and we arrived there after 3:00. We decided to try the left fork
first. We motored up to nearly the end were we could see a forest of
cottonwoods which had been flooded by the lake and killed. There appeared to be
a gap in the trees and we decided to try to negotiate it. Unfortunately I hit a
submerged tree. The boat was listing badly to one side as the tree pushed up on
the other side. I tried to back off but was stuck tight. Then I tried rocking
the boat from side to side to back off. No luck still stuck tight. So I had
everybody go stand on the opposite corner of the place the hull was stuck and
spun the boat around. Luckily this dislodged us.
Feeling a little
intimidated we motored back out of the left arm and decided to try the right
arm. We motored to the end but all available sites were taken so we had to turn
around again. I didn't want to spend much more time looking for a spot so I
decided to put in under a giant southwest facing overhanging arch-watercave.
There was rockfall on the sloped slab of sandstone under the arch so we tied
off there. There was really nowhere to walk so we all took a swim except Bill
who had slid down the sloped sandstone into the water when tying off. We all
swam across the circular pool under the arch which was about a hundred feet
across and over a hundred feet above our heads. I swam toward the back of the
arch-watercave bathing in the last sunbeams of the day. The lip of the arch
must have hung out over the water at least sixty feet. There were two hanging
gardens on either side each about thirty feet up at a joint of weaker stone
between the two slabs of sandstone which comprised the canyon wall. The
arch-watercave was formed as the softer sandstone beneath washed away leaving
no support for the sandstone above. Without support the sandstone fractured
leaving a compressed sandstone arch above.
The next morning we arose
early and started up the lake heading for the Escalante River. The Escalante
River was the last major river drainage basin to be discovered in the
continental United States. The Escalante drains the Kaiparowits Plateau. The
Kaiparowits Plateau is the area that President Clinton just declared a national
monument. Some of the most inaccessible and most beautiful terrain on earth
surrounds the Escalante. The area is laced with a fantastic labyrinth of deep
sandstone canyons. Willows and cottonwoods grow in the bottom of the canyons.
On the rim and on the plateau junipers and pinion pine predominate.
arrived at the mouth of the Escalante with the morning still early and started
up the canyon. At the mouth the sandstone cliffs were only eighty feet tall but
as we wound our way through the canyon the cliffs rose to a height of two
hundred feet. The Escalante River arm of Lake Powell is over twenty three miles
long. Our destination was Willow Creek which was about ten miles up the
Escalante arm. The river canyon twisted and turned so much that many times we
could not tell whether we were still in the main arm or up a tributary. Finally
after a couple hours of cruising we sighted the mouth of Willow Creek.
We had to motor very slowly up Willow Creek Canyon as it was very narrow. We
were lucky in that we didn't meet any other houseboats as there were several
places that two houseboats would have had a hard time passing each other. There
were three major water caves along the canyon. One of them we hit at the
perfect time of day as the sunlight reflecting on the water created waving
diamond patterns on the roof of the cave in a spectacular light show. As we
neared the end of the canyon we found all the beaches had already been taken so
we put in on a sandstone shelf that jutted into the lake. I pecked a hole in
the sandstone with a claw hammer to set the anchor in on one side. The other
side Bill and Don piled chunks of sandstone onto the anchor. The end of the
lake was another mile or so up the canyon. About a hundred yards back was Forty
Mile Creek Canyon. Forty Mile Creek canyon was named thus because if you
started walking out it was forty miles to the town of Escalante, the nearest
It was still early in the day so Patrick and I
paddled the canoe to the end of the lake up the canyon. We beached the canoe at
a horseshoe in the river were the sandstone cliff hung out over our heads
creating another water cave. We followed a bench a short distance and then had
to descend to the floor of the canyon. At this point we found thick mud
covering the canyon floor. The water mark on the surrounding canyon walls told
us that this part of the canyon floor was covered with 12 feet of water when
the lake was full. We waded through the mud and started along Willow Creek
which was flowing with clear cold water.
We walked a hundred yards and
entered a huge amphitheater the top of which hung so far out it looked as
though full sunlight never penetrated to the floor. In a crevice on the wall
above a very scraggly pinion pine grew. After a couple of hundred more yards we
came to the place past the highest level of lake water. Immediately willows and
cottonwoods surrounded us. Along the stream bank I counted 5 species of plants
in flower and three types of fern. After being surrounded by the bleak rock and
water for the past 2 days the lush vegetation enthralled us. Bill and Andy were
following us in Bill's raft so we turned around and started back. We found them
on the shelf above the river just past the amphitheater. We all started back
down and met at the beach head. As it was still early I wanted to give Marilin
a chance to see the vegetation up the canyon. We returned to the boat.
We arrived just as the wind pulled the anchor out from under the pile of rocks.
We were attempting to secure the boat when Bill and Andy got back. We
re-anchored the houseboat to the sandstone shelf.
Later that day
Marilin and I took the canoe and Margie and Bill took the raft and we returned
to the site of vegetation so Marilin, Margie and Bill could see it. We explored
the immediately surrounding area including what may have been the remains of an
Anaszi sight high on the cliff above our landing. Don fished nearly all night
and had caught a nice string of catfish for dinner.
Andy and I got up
at dawn and paddled up Forty Mile Creek on a voyage of exploration. The creek
ran back about a mile. When we could go no further we beached the canoe. We
could hear water running so we pushed through the dense undergrowth searching
for the source. A little way up the canyon we found a small waterfall falling
into a pool. As the brush was thick we decided to turn around. As we approached
the canoe we noticed an overhang with the remains of Anasazi ruins in it. Andy
and I scrambled up to what remained of the crumbling walls. After looking
around we returned to the canoe and started back down the canyon. As we paddled
silently along we noticed an object swimming ahead of us in the water. As we
got closer the object started swimming away. As I watched it I realized that we
were watching a beaver.
The explores that had been moored at a beach
100 yards up the canyon moved on so we beached it there. I climbed a small
cliff so we could return to our canoe at the old landing and tied a rope off.
Andy and I had to climb the rope to get to the canoe.
We decided to see
if we could locate Broken Bow Arch which was a few kilometers up the canyon.
Patrick, Don, Andy, Bill and I put together day packs and headed out. We landed
at the same beach and hiked up on the bench above as a guidebook suggested that
we might find petroglyphs on the rock above. After a 45 minute search we
discovered the petroglyphs. The best one was a carving of a bighorn
At a place were the rock came together over our heads in a
gateway type formation we met a group of people who had hiked to Broken Bow
Arch. They told us what to expect so we continued with renewed vigor. The
canyon forked and we stuck to the left. About a hundred yards past the fork we
came to a narrows. The stream bed was only six to eight feet wide with
water lapping the
bases of the solid sandstone walls rising on either side. I was wearing
shorts and water sandals so I strode into the water. We had been told the water
was not deep.
The stream flowed over solid rock for the next couple of
hundred yards the last eighty of which went through a curved tunnel type gouge.
There was one pool in
this stretch of rock that looks as though it always had water in it. After this
stretch of rock we came upon a place with several trees. Hidden behind the
trees was a beautiful fern filled grotto.
came to an area were passage became difficult and we soon saw why. Beaver dams
had been built every hundred yards for the next kilometer. We then entered a
gigantic amphitheater which was comprised of a giant overhanging cliff like a
bowl stuck in the sand some three hundred feet tall and six hundred feet long.
Being at the bottom I felt very tiny in comparison.
Finally we reached
an area of prolific growth with large oaks, cottonwoods, poplars and willows. A
shelf had been cleared and looked as though it might have been used extensively
at one time by Anaszi. A water fall fell at the end of the shelf bringing it's
sweet sound to my ears. A small rock cairn marked this as the end of the rock
rainbow. We started up a mountain of sand. Broken Bow arch rose above our heads.
Broken Bow arch which is one hundred feet tall and nearly one hundred feet wide
was massive in comparison to the slender arch of Rainbow Bridge. Broken Bow is
the second largest arch off Lake Powell and was named thus by the geologist
that discovered it in 1919 because he found a broken bow beneath it.
we started back a storm came up and it began to rain. Upon returning to the
boat we discovered one anchor had dragged lose as the wind and rain buffeted
the houseboat. We secured the houseboat and hunkered down for a stormy
In the morning the rain continued and we decided to leave Willow
Creek and visit some rebuilt Anasazi ruins called Three Ruins. As we motored
down Willow Creek the rain increased and soon there were waterfalls pouring
over the edges of the cliffs into the lake. Although it was cold and wet it
was a magical time being surrounded by waterfalls. Some were merely trickles
but others were full fledged cataracts with hundreds of
gallons a minute.
Upon reaching the Escalante we turned northward
penetrating the Escalante River upper reaches. We spotted the ruins under a
huge overhanging arch-cave after a couple of miles. I ran the houseboat up on a
sandstone ledge at the base of the arch. We anchored off and then we ran
through the rain to the base of the cliff. At the base of the cliff we were out
of the rain as the arch-cave was overhead. We had to climb straight up the
cliff using foot and handholds gouged out of the sandstone. It was a bit
precarious but everyone made it with out any close calls.
At the top
of our climb we explored the rebuilt ruins. They consisted of a pen for
livestock, a storage room, and a lodge. Three wasn't enough room on the ledge
for the buildings to have been built for more than one family. The livestock
pen was probably about six feet by six feet with walls on two sides, the cliff
on one side and evenly spaced sticks on the other. The storage room was nearly
the same size but was walled on three sides with the cliff on the other. The
lodge was slightly larger with a single entrance with a wall standing behind it
to reduce wind infiltration. You could pass around either end of the wall to
enter the lodge proper. There was two sleeping shelves on either side and a
smoke hole in the roof. It, as well, had three walls with the fourth wall being
After exploring the ruins we started back down the
Escalante. After winding our way back down the canyon we once again entered the
main cannel. We had decided to attempt to find a spot to anchor in Cottonwood
Canyon. Cottonwood Canyon is significant because of it's historical
One of the most difficult and daring journeys of the pioneer
days of the American Frontier was undertaken in this area. The San Juan Mission
party consisted of 230 Mormons with 83 wagons and 1000 head of livestock. They
began the journey on October 22, 1887. Originally expecting to spend 6 weeks
traveling they ended up spending 6 months. The most difficult part was the
Hole-In-The-Rock portion which was across the lake from Cottonwood Canyon. (Of
course there was no lake at that time.) They had to dynamite a road over a
kilometer long with a drop of over 300 meters. At one point the slope was over
45%. They had to lower the wagons with ropes. They built a ferry to take them
across the river. Then they started up the other side which is Cottonwood
We reached Register Rocks around noon. Register Rocks are two
monolithic rocks which rear up like giant tombstones with about fifty feet
between them. They were named thus because everyone in the journey's name was
carved into them. When the lake is full you can motor between them but a sand
bar confronted us so we had to go around to the mouth of the canyon. The rain
began again in earnest as we motored up the canyon. As we approached the end of
the canyon I saw a place to moor the houseboat so we put in. All around us the
rain came down harder. A dozen waterfalls sprung from the surrounding cliffs.
As we watched a stream began to form five feet from the front of the houseboat.
Within minutes there was a major amount of water pouring over the rocks. The
water was red with sandstone and soon clouded the water. I was soaked from
piloting the boat in the driving rain so I changed clothes and ate a warm
As quickly as the rain had come it disappeared. Within a half
hour the clouds were gone and the sun was shining brightly. We were ready for
another hike so Marilin, Don, Patrick, Andy and I set out in search of the old
wagon trail that ran up to the rim of the canyon. The ground was soft under our
feet as the wet sand gave to our weight. Several small streams ran down from
the canyon rim converging in Cottenwood Canyon Creek. We made our way along the
creek crossing the streams and skirting swampy areas that had been filed by the
recent rain. At one point we were forced to cross the creek. Don dropped an old
log into a swampy grassy area and we all crossed. Finally we found the
beginning of the old wagon road.
It started up a sandy hill. You could
tell it was the old wagon trail because rocks had been brought and stacked and
an area leveled. We toiled up the sandy hill finally reaching the top. The
vista began to open up around us as we reached the top of the hill. In the
distance we could see the lake. The other direction more sandstones cliffs rose
up. We scanned the cliffs as our guidebook mentioned triple arch. We spied it
and caught our breath taking in the glorious views.
We continued up
the trial cresting another hill. At this point Marilin was tuckered out. We
could see the trail ahead leading steeply up the side of a cliff. Marilin
decided to wait for us while we continued on. The trail up the cliff had been
cut and rocks had been stacked in declivities to create the wagon trial. At a
couple of points you could still see the marks that the ropes had cut in the
sandstone as they hauled the wagons up. We worked our way up until we finally
reached the top of the wagon trail were it met a still in use 4 wheel drive
trail. From this vantage point you could see back down toward the Lake, the
Hole-In-The-Rock and above the Karoparowits Plateau. In the other direction
you could see the canyons of the San Juan branch.
We returned to the
houseboat making it back just about dark. The next day we headed back down
river refueling again at Dangling Rope. Late in the afternoon we made it to
Padre Bay crossing it's five miles and finding a spot to anchor in Gunsight
Canyon. The next morning we arose early and returned the houseboat to the
rental agency at Wahweap Marina. By noon we were on the road. We drove back a
different direction going through Zion. In the canyon bottom we stopped at a
picnic area and had a picnic. We arrived in Glendora about 1:00 am.
Copyright © Lawrence Turner