Park History

Park History

Lake Powell was created in 1963 when the Glen Canyon Dam held back the waters of the Colorado River, forming a vast blue lake surrounded by beautiful sandstone walls. Remarkably, it took 17 years for the lake to fill the canyon to the high water mark (3700' above sea level), giving America its second largest man-made lake - and a playground like no place else on earth. Here are some highlights of our lake's history:

May 24, 1869

Major John Wesley Powell, an intrepid one-armed civil war veteran, left Green River, Wyoming, leading an expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers. The expedition ended on August 29, 1869, near Grand Wash Cliffs. His expedition of the Colorado River filled in the last blank spot on the map of the United States.

In 1881

John D. Lee established ferryboat service across the Colorado River where Lees Ferry is today, providing the first accessible canyon crossing.

August 14, 1909

Rainbow Bridge, the world's largest natural stone bridge was "discovered" by the Douglas-Cummings expedition. Many Native American Tribes already knew of the bridge's existence and had passed stories down about its creation for centuries. On May 30, 1910, President William H. Taft designated Rainbow Bridge as a National Monument. At 278' wide and standing 290' above the streambed, Rainbow Bridge remains a favorite Lake Powell destination today.

October 20, 1956

Construction started on Glen Canyon Dam, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower pressed a button from the White House, detonating the first powder charge.

March 13, 1963

The two diversion tunnels at Glen Canyon Dam are closed to allow Lake Powell to begin filling, which also led to the creation of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, a popular summer destination. Lake Powell is named after Major John Wesley Powell, who charted most of the area during two expeditions in 1869 and 1872.

In 1965

The first buildings at Wahweap Lodge, operated by Canyon Tours Inc. are completed, including the lobby, a small dining room and 44 guest rooms.

In 1966

The final two generating units at the Glen Canyon Dam began providing power.

October 27, 1972

Glen Canyon National Recreational Area was established.

June 20, 1980

Lake Powell reached 'full pool' - 3700' above sea level for the first time. Since then, it's become the ultimate destination for houseboating, lodging, and camping/RV vacations. Lake Powell is arguably the most scenic lake in America, situated in some of Southern Utah's finest red-rock desert country.