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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Lexington, SC

    Default Lake Mead/Lake Powell

    I saw some discussion in the June picture thread, but wanted to have a dedicated thread for these lakes. I just saw a youtube video about Lake Mead and the guy waited 3-4 hours to launch his boat. He also said that if the water goes any lower he probably won't even be able to launch. All the trucks in the video were up to the doors and front bumber just to get in far enough to launch the boat. Is anyone on either of these lakes? How does this affect the boating there? Will it just shut down for summer and hope for rain or snow melt in the spring? I'm a midwest and now east coaster so I'm curious, intrigued, worried about the situation out there. Do the lakes provide water for drinkinig and agriculture? What are the back up options?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
    Reno, NV


    Quote Originally Posted by mgswake View Post
    Is anyone on either of these lakes? How does this affect the boating there? Will it just shut down for summer and hope for rain or snow melt in the spring?
    Iíve never boated Mead or Powell, but Iím a Northern NV native that has been through many drought cycles, so I feel I speak to the issues without the experience of those two places.

    Both are federally managed through federal, state, and local agreements as well as international agreement with Mexico. With regard to the ramps, the Feds may operate ramps under many different hats (Mead is manage by the National Parks Service, Powell ramps are a mix of private, state, and NPS). Each lake borders two states which have varied requirements for ramp operation and construction that must also meet federal requirements.

    It is my understanding that options for extending the ramps are in progress, but if a ramp becomes a hazard, all state and federal agencies will close that access, and whatever privately operated ramps must consider their binding agreement with the state and federal agencies with regard to operation. So, if the conditions are met, ramps will close if they havenít already.

    The problem is, anywhere you have lake access (open beach) you may get people attempting to beach launch. Small fishing boats, jet skis, small sailing craft might be able to do this, but even that is fraught with complications like getting stuck in the sand or mud, or just getting there on the dirt roads that lead you in.

    Anyway you sort it, the recreation area being shut down for water sports would have huge economic impact.

    Quote Originally Posted by mgswake View Post
    Do the lakes provide water for drinkinig and agriculture? What are the back up options?
    The Colorado river provides millions of people with drinking water, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. Are there alternatives for these resources? Sadly, they are few and far between.

    There will always be flow through the river channel, but until some historic amounts of moisture comes , that flow will continue to decrease, and reservoir releases will have to continue because of federal, state, local, and international agreements. Once the electricity stops being produced, I think youíll see some real movement towards renegotiation of agreements and some big economic hits to some areas.

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2020


    We have a houseboat in Halls Crossing Marina on Lake Powell so I follow things very closely. The continual march of the lake level downward has been partially abated by the spring runoff and some management changes of upstream reservoirs in order to keep Lake Powell's power generation capacity intact. However, the water level is about to peak for the year and it will march down again, with a peak some 20 feet lower than last year's peak. I know very little about Lake Mead conditions, except that it is also in dire straights.

    Boating access on Lake Powell has been a challenge for the last year. We have a mid-July trip every year and 2 days before our trip was to start we saw that the launch ramp at our marina was to be closed during the middle of our trip due to low water. That launch ramp was the last concrete ramp operating on the north end of the lake and cannot be extended since it bottoms out at a cliff about 300 ft above the lake bottom. The ramps on the other side of the north end of the lake at Bullfrog Marina were all out of water, but there was an old roadway the had been submerged for 60 years that facilitated launching. If you went down the road, you would have all four tires and water up to your doors at launch, but you could go off the side of the road, which was built up above the underlying flats and launch your boat easier. There were myriad hazards though, resulting in many fouled propellers. On the south end of the lake the NPS marinas all had their launch ramps go dry except for a very old ramp that they were able to rehabilitate and which they have continuously extended as the water has retreated. The Navajo nation's marina also had its launch ramps (both the public and valet ramps) go dry at different times, with the public ramp going away nearly at the start of last summer and the valet ramp lasting quite some time. The Navajo Nation would like to improve the valet ramp, deepening the approach, but the NPS is not allowing it to happen.

    This winter/spring, the NPS worked on improving lake access on both the north and south end of Lake Powell, extending a ramp at Bullfrog Marina that has previously been used largely by houseboat owners down to this year's low water mark and continuing to widen and deepen the launch ramp down south at Stateline Marina. They will face greater challenges as the water retreats over this winter though since both Bullfrog Marina and Wahweap Marina are going to deal with low water issues in their current locations in bays that are shallower than the lake channel.

    Last year they also had the mid-lake marina (lake access only so no boat launches) called Dangling Rope damaged in a wind storm. With the lower water levels in the bay/canyon Dangling Rope is located, NPS decided to remove the marina, which causes fuel logistical issues for boats in the area, since the distance between Antelope Point Marina and Bullfrog Marina (the only north end fuel on water with Hall's fuel dock running out of water and being discontinued) a 90 mile haul. On the south end, houseboats are cautioned about going further than 30 miles uplake due to this lack of fuel options.

    Water management on Lake Powell and Lake Mead are complicated by multi-state compacts and international treaties. The primary destination for Colorado River water is agricultural and there is no good alternative. There are significant drinking water supplies that come from this system though with municipalities in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and California all dependent on this supply. Drinking water in many cases can be temporarily replaced through wells, but some of the largest users don't have good alternatives for medium or long term needs (e.g. Las Vegas, NV).

    The Bureau of Reclamation has indicated that drastic cuts will be made in supply next year in order to prop up the whole system. If either lake drops to a certain elevation, the system no longer becomes controllable, meaning there is no ability to route water in the event of an emergency need. The system is considered to be functioning properly when the lower basin receives 8.5 MAF in a year through Lake Powell to Lake Mead. Next year, they may only deliver 4.5-5.0 MAF to downstream users. This will be devastating to agriculture in the area.

    In spite of these difficulties, Lake Powell is still one of the most amazing places in the world. You just have to keep an open eye out for dead trees at the back of canyons and for new rocks under the surface that you didn't ever know were there. Everyone should visit there at least once. For me, I need to visit at least once a year!

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