Wheelchair Accessible Lake Powell, Arizona
Nature's Palette

by Kent R. Davies © 2007 


Kent R. Davies, of Phoenix, Arizona, shares the joy of using an accessible houseboat on scenic Lake Powell, Arizona.


Imagine a wondrous land where the high desert sunlight transforms a rich palette of Navajo sandstone into a colorful tapestry; transforming a landscape of immense mesas, vermillion cliffs, narrow canyons and rugged mountains into a panorama of incomparable splendor above sparkling turquoise waters. This magical oasis gets better as fiery orange and red sunsets transition into a dark canvas full of bright stars and galaxies you may never dreamed existed. Lake Powell is not Disneyland, its better! And it’s not inaccessible. The 180-mile long reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam is within the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area in Utah and Arizona just east of the Grand Canyon National Park.  


Nancy Wheeler, a wheelchair user from Phoenix, Arizona, who has rented 48 and 59-foot houseboats with her husband and friends, enthusiastically recommends a houseboat excursion. “I just wanted to soak up everything.  It is so peaceful, so quiet.  An experience of a lifetime.”

Nancy found that Lake Powell accommodates everyone. “It is a whole different atmosphere from many vacation spots.  Everyone is very friendly and accommodating. They were very available to assist me.”

Rainbow Bridge, the world’s largest natural bridge towering 290-feet high with a 275-foot span, is now more accessible whereas before the reservoir’s formation it could only be viewed by hikers able to transverse a16-mile hike through rugged desert from Highway 98 or raft down the Colorado River and then climb up to it. When Lake Powell’s water is sufficiently high, you can even captain your own vessel near enough to witness its beauty from your deck. This natural wonder’s access trail is not wheelchair accessible during periods of low reservoir levels.


Lake Powell’s shoreline of coves, canyons and 96 major tributary gorges covers 1960 miles making it as long as the West Coast’s entire shoreline. Such is the setting’s grandeur and its limitless opportunities for exploration by boat that sixty-percent of houseboat renters return, and the average visitor stay at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is 4.1 days (the longest in the national park system) - in comparison to the Grand Canyon National Park’s average stay of under one hour. 

Lake Powell is a water lover’s paradise offering water adventures for everyone from teen’s jet skiing to grandparents enjoying all-day accessible tour boat excursions. Playing in and on the water comes naturally with summer water temperatures averaging over eighty degrees. 

ARAMARK operated Lake Powell Resort and Marina (http://www.lakepowell.com/) at Wahweap Bay off Highway 89A just north of  Page, Arizona is your main vacation headquarters.  A second ARAMARK operated marina at Bullfrog Bay at Lake Powell’s eastern end also offers houseboat and watercraft rentals.  Take advantage of Wahweap Bay’s Lake Powell Resort with restaurants, pools and updated rooms offering views of the lake and its surrounding vistas; or stay at the immaculate Lake Powell RV Park & Campground with modern store, showers and laundry facilities.  Full shuttle services are available to RV/campground and lodge guests plus the lodge’s shops, restaurants and pools are open to all resort guests.

For many visitors the ideal family and friends vacation is renting a houseboat from one of the marinas for cruising and camping.  Houseboats make wonderful base camps for very productive striped bass fishing; or venturing forth on jet skis or runabouts to explore narrow, sheer walled canyons rising hundreds of feet above the water’s surface.  Houseboats commonly leave Wahweap Bay towing jet skis and runabouts.

Lake Powell has three accessible houseboats that are available on a first-come basis.  These boats enable wheelchair users to pilot the vessel with a movable bench for non-wheelchair users. The kitchen has lowered counters and appliances. The beds, toilets, showers and first level outdoor decks front and rear are fully accessible; with widened doors and hallway.  A special ramp on the bow allows wheelchair users to safely board the vessel from dockside, and a remote control electric winch and sling off the rear deck enables mobility impaired users to transition into and from runabouts. A ramp lets you get down to the beach.

Nancy felt very safe on the houseboats. With rails and gates, “you do not feel like you are going to fall off.  I would feel very comfortable using the lift.” All the houseboats have marine radios.

The accessible houseboats are always the last to be rented to help ensure their availability for persons with a disability. It is never too soon to reserve a houseboat.  The cooler spring and fall months experience less demand for vessels.  It is important to carefully plan your Lake Powell vacation.  Prioritizing your waterborne itinerary and gleaning as much “local knowledge” as you can from the Web beforehand is important for a successful Lake Powell vacation. 

“Lake Powell,” Nancy found, “is a once in a lifetime vacation, especially for wheelchair users.  I would go again in a heartbeat.”


Lake Powell Insider Tips


Lake Powell Resort & Marina: http://www.lakepowell.com/


Lake levels: http://www.gf.state.az.us/h_f/edits/lake_levels.shtml


Lake Powell Map: http://www.go-utah.com/Stan-Jones-Lake-Powell-Map/


Fishing: Don’t forget  fishing licenses for both Arizona and Utah.  http://www.wayneswords.com/


Food: Basha’s grocery in Page offers a fee-based Houseboat Delivery &Grocery Pick Up service.  http://www.bashaslakepowell.com/


Boat inside storage is minimal so plan accordingly when planning menus. Ice chests are provided.  Bring ice.

Safety: You are trained to operate the houseboat before soloing with services available to pilot your craft in and out of the marina and, for a fee, pilot and anchor your vessel.  Park boats conduct a daily houseboat welfare check.  Houseboats have two-way radios.

Floating toilets are strategically located around the lake.

Satellite marinas every 50-miles offer gas with minimal food and brewage.  Dangling Rope marina offers world-class ice cream.

Gas: Never pass up a refueling stop.  It’s 50-miles to Rainbow Bridge.

Buoys define a safe passage only through the main channel.  When passing buoys note their color and number track your location.


Lake Powell Statistics


Lake Powell  Climate Mean Temperatures

January: High 42 F    Low 24 F

July: High: High 97 F             Low 60 F


Lake Surface Temperatures

January           46 F

July                  78 F


Average Annual Precipitation

6 inches         



Over 1.1 million annually – 4th largest in National Park System



Size: 1.25 million acres lies in Arizona and Utah

Second largest human-made lake in North America

Elevation at lake full pool – 3700 feet above sea level

Length: 186 miles with 1960 miles of shorelines

96 side canyons

Maximum Depth – 561 feet


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