Lake Powell's Houseboat Launches Running Dry

Record low water levels are sinking Lake Powell's houseboat industry as climate change threatens water supplies in the West.

August 5, 2021, 9:11 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Lake Powell

Johnny Adolphson / Shutterstock

Historically low water levels in Lake Powell, the reservoir formed by the Glen Canyon Dam and one of the Southwest's biggest water sources and recreational destinations, is disrupting the recreational industry in the area and threatening water supplies, reports Annette McGivney in the Guardian. "The National Park Service abruptly announced earlier this month that houseboats could no longer use the Wahweap Launch Ramp, the busiest boat launch site in the area. Boats already cast out into the water were warned they had less than a week to return to land, or risk getting marooned."

The lake's water line recently "reached a historic low of 3,554ft, a level that has not been seen since 1969, when the reservoir was first filled. The giant reservoir is currently three-quarters empty and will keep dropping at least through next spring due to record low snowpack levels in the Colorado River basin." Of seven public boat launch ramps, just one remains reliably operational. "But that too may soon become inaccessible."

Meanwhile, "[a]s water managers and the Park Service scramble to adapt an infrastructure that was designed to function optimally when Lake Powell was full – which last happened in 1999 – some environmentalists are fighting to protect the nearly 100,000 acres of land that has emerged from beneath the high water mark." Eric Balken, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute, says houseboating is just one of many recreational options people can access as the water line drops and Glen Canyon–vividly captured in Edward Abbey's seminal book Desert Solitaire–reemerges from the depths. "We are not anti houseboat, we are just pro-Glen Canyon," says Balken. "We want the ecological values of Glen Canyon to be part of the discussion about how to move forward during climate change."

Friday, July 30, 2021 in The Guardian

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