Family Vacations, Summer 1996
For the past 20 years, my family has spent two weeks of the summer aboard a houseboat on Lake Powell in Utah. I'm 19, so I've been doing this my whole life.
My grandfather owns a time-share in a 33-footer. Every July, for his birthday, some 20 members of my dad's side of the family convene--including my parents, my younger sister, and me. It sounds remarkable that one boat can sleep so many people. But what we do, like the majority of boaters on Lake Powell, is camp on the beaches at night and cruise by day aboard the boat, which is a boxlike cabin atop three huge pontoons. The roof of the cabin is a big deck where we eat meals, barbecue (though there's a kitchen below), read, and play games.
The best part about being on Lake Powell is that you can be as active or inactive as you want, which is how both the young and old in our family can stay entertained. When I was a kid, I spent every waking moment in the water (which is actually crystal-clear, not muddy). We usually rent a speedboat so we can waterski and run reconnaissance missions in search of each night's campsite. Now that I'm older, I spend a lot of time Jet Skiing, too. My grandparents are content to putt around and check things out.
The sights are spectacular: The 186-mile-long lake with sheer sandstone cliffs meanders for 1,900 miles--longer than the entire west coast of the U.S. Dunes cascade down from rifts in the walls of red rock, forming pockets of soft sand beaches. There's also Rainbow Bridge, a natural rock formation that spans an astonishing 275 feet over an inlet.
Launch from either Wahweap (520-645-2433) or Bullfrog (801-684-2233), the two marinas (90 miles apart). At either one you can rent a houseboat; they range in size from a 36-footer to a 59-foot Admiral and cost $723-$1,376 for three days, $1,986-$3,794 for seven days. You might want to bring along some playthings--Jet Skis ($199 per day), motorboats ($199-$249), skiffs ($62), canoes ($39), and water skis ($18) are all available at the marinas. For houseboats smaller than 56 feet, bring your own towels and bedding or rent a set from the marina ($16.75 for a sleeping bag, two towels, and a washcloth). The larger boats are equipped with everything you'll need except, of course, food. The only city for hundreds of miles is Page, Arizona (population 8,000). If you stock up on supplies there, you'll only need to make occasional trips to the marinas for ice and gas.
Then take off down the main channel--which looks more like the ocean than a lake, with waves and gusty winds. (Boardsailors will want to bring their gear.) Hug the towering cliffs and explore coves that cut inland for miles, telescoping down to just hundreds of feet wide. Once inside, you're shielded from the wind and the rest of the world.
Copyright 1996, Outside magazine