Lake Powell’s Historic Low Level Strands Some Boat Ramps—And Reveals Others

Aug 3, 2021

Lake Powell on the Colorado River is at historically low levels. All but three of its boat ramps are stranded above the waterline. The National Park Service is fighting to maintain access to the reservoir for recreational boaters… with the help of an old “legacy” ramp that’s been underwater for half a century. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with William Shott, superintendent of Glen Canyon National Recreational Area.

Credit National Park Service


Tell me more about the legacy ramp that you mentioned. This was a ramp built a long time ago and was actually underwater for quite a while.

Yeah, so this is interesting. It’s been a fun little archeological exercise and lesson for us. As we started to see these water levels drop to levels we’ve never seen before since the 60s when the lake was being filled up, we found that these legacy ramps were popping up … Those ramps were built as temporary measures to be able to access the lake. The reason I want to highlight that is they’re not made out of cement, they’re made out of a very thin layer of asphalt. What’s interesting is as they come out of the water, one of them…. it surprised me, it still has stripes painted on them. Unfortunately, they’re not that great, they’re only about 2-3 inches thick…. We’re going to stabilize that to the degree that we can, and that should allow us to continue to allow recreational access onto the lake out at Wahweap area, which is adjacent to Page, Arizona. We’ll continue to use that ramp for vessels 36 foot and shorter, up until the time that we get another ramp completed.

So restoring the legacy ramp and building a new ramp, is it your plan that those are going to be the long term ramps in the area? In other words, are you expecting Lake Powell’s levels to stay at this level—this low?

There’s a lot of conditions that go into predicting what the lake levels will be, and honestly, I don’t think anyone knows right now, especially as some of the new laws regarding water use on the Colorado River are currently under development…. With that said, I do know the levels at Lake Powell will be lower, not through just the remainder of this year but going into next year and potentially the year after that. So what I’m happy about is we’re finding these legacy ramps, we’re able to construct new ramps, we’ll be regrading and building new ramps as well. Now it gives us options.

Let me just clarify that if you’re headed to Lake Powell and have a small boat like a kayak, you can still access the lake pretty much at any of those ramps, right?

Yeah, if you have a kayak or a paddleboard or something similar you have multiple options. ….. The biggest limitations that we have right now are folks that have their houseboats, their larger boats, larger than 36 feet, in dry storage. Right now, they have a real challenge. They’re unable, except for working with our concessionaire at Antelope Point, there’s really no way launch those boats, and our concessionaire is going to lose their ability to launch those types of boats probably within in the next week to two.

William Shott, thank you so much for speaking with me.

Of course.

Information for boaters headed to Lake Powell:

The Wahweap Main Launch Ramp is expected to become unusable for motorized vessels once the lake elevation falls to 3551, which is predicted to happen in the next two weeks. Visitors to Wahweap can use the Auxiliary (legacy) ramp which is limited to vessels under 36 feet in length. Boaters are advised to expect long lines. More information here: https://www.nps.gov/glca/learn/news/20210730.htm

Check on Lake Powell’s level and the status of all boat ramps here: https://www.nps.gov/glca/learn/changing-lake-levels.htm