Page is a planned community near the Arizona/Utah
border. Named for John C. Page, a 1930s commissioner of the
Bureau of Reclamation, the city was planned and developed for
the workers building Glen Canyon Dam in 1957. At an elevation
of 4,300 feet atop Manson Mesa, overlooking Wahweap
Bay of Lake Powell, Page has become a major resort area and
was incorporated in March 1975. Flagstaff is 134 miles south
via U.S. 89.
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Though it began as a temporary camp for construction
workers, Page has emerged as a self-sufficient and progressive
city. Lake Powell, the Navajo Generating Station, and tourism
are the major contributors to the economy.
Recreational properties and public utilities are the predominant
employers in Page. While the recreation-oriented firms
experience seasonal employment peaks from March through
November, the Salt River Project’s Navajo Generating Station
assures the stability of Page. In 1994, Salt River Project began a
five-year $6.3 million scrubber project to assure air quality. The
National Park Service estimates that the Page/Lake Powell area
had 3.1 million visitors in 1997. Tourism and the distance to
other trade centers have created a demand for a variety of consumer
goods and services. Therefore, 70 percent of the
employers and more than 50 percent of the total workforce
are in the retail trade and service sectors.
The federal government is another important employer in
the Page area. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is administered
by the National Park Service through headquarters at
Page; and Glen Canyon Dam is managed by the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation. Both agencies are part of the U.S. Department of
the Interior. Other federal, state and city offices, as well as the
public schools, have boosted government employment to nearly
10 percent of the total.
The page is a hub city, near the center of one of America’s most
varied regions. North of Page is Glen Canyon Dam, which forms
one of the most beautiful lakes in Arizona. Over 1,900 miles of
shoreline are formed by this lake, more than the entire West
Coast from Canada to Mexico.
Rainbow Bridge is reached via boat on Lake Powell. South
of Page is the Navajo Indian Reservation, with Monument Valley,
Canyon de Chelly and other natural wonders. Historic Lee’s Ferry
near Page had an important role in the early exploration of the
Colorado River. It is now a point of departure for trips down the
Colorado River Rapids and has a National Park Service campground
Page has a variety of events throughout the year including:
Easter Egg Hunt, Air Affaire, Cinco De Mayo, Old-Fashioned
Fourth of July, Halloween Carnival, and the Festival of Lights.
John Wesley Powell Museum
The John Wesley Powell Museum has exhibits revealing the history of Lake Powell. The museum showcases Major John Wesley Powell, an early river explorer. In 1869, Major Powell began his journey by
following the Green River and the Colorado River. His two expeditions to this area, along with his desire to record the trips are evidence of his love of the land and river. Powell was later honored when the Lake
Powell was named after him. The museum has mementos and portraits of the Major, along with a replica of Powell’s original boat.
Visitors will see artifacts of early Native Americans. There is a collection of Anasazi cooking vessels, Navajo stone axes and Navajo and Pima baskets. The museum also focuses on geology. The rock
the collection includes samples of petrified wood and fluorescent minerals.
The John Wesley Powell Museum is very helpful to visitors planning tours of Lake Powell and the surrounding area. This is a terrific service and makes the museum an important spot to stop when visiting Page. There are informational videos playing in the museum throughout the day.
The John Wesley Powell Museum is open every day from 8:00 to 6:00, during May through October and Monday through Saturday 9:00 to 5:00, during the rest of the year. However, the museum is closed
December 16 through February 16. There is no admission charge, but a donation is greatly appreciated. If you would like more information, you may call 520-645-9496.
The museum is located in downtown Page on the corner of Lake Powell Boulevard and North Navajo Drive. You can get there from Tucson or Phoenix by taking Interstate 17 north out of town to Flagstaff. Once you are in Flagstaff take U.S. Highway 89 north to Page. Page is approximately 395 miles from Tucson, about 277 miles from Phoenix and 136 miles from Flagstaff.
“A six-hour tour … a six-hour tour… the weather started getting hot.” I kept silently singing my own version of Gilligan’s Island’s theme song as I headed down the black asphalt path to my waiting tour boat, the Desert Odyssey.
I had always heard that Lake Powell was a gorgeous place. However, along with being beautiful, the word ‘houseboat’ always seemed to follow. Needless to say, I never had the time or energy necessary to put together a houseboat trip to Lake Powell, thus I had never seen the lake. But on a trip heading up the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I had decided to make a short detour and stay at the Wahweap Lodge on Lake Powell for two nights.
the Wahweap Lodge was a real surprise – a gem in the high desert. I call it a destination vacation spot. The two nights I spent there clearly gave me only a taste of what the Lodge has to offer its guests.
One of the activities I chose was the boat ride to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. I had always wanted to see it in person. It’s the largest known natural bridge in the world. There are two ways to visit Rainbow Bridge, by foot or by water. Hikers must acquire a guide and use the trails on the Navajo Nation. Boaters must take a six-hour trip, including a short hike to the bridge. Rainbow Bridge was designated a National Monument in 1910. Today, the Glen Canyon National Recreational area manages the monument.
Once at the end of the asphalt path, I finished my TV theme song rendition and boarded the boat. The Desert Odyssey had bench style cushioned seating inside with large sliding glass windows. These windows made viewing easy. Upstairs on the top deck were plastic seat ideal for grabbing some rays and enjoying unobstructed views.
Since it was July, I chose the comfy shaded indoor seating. This proofed to be the best decision I could have made during the trip, along with following Captain Melvin’s advice of hydrating (drinking lots of water) during the boat ride. After making my seating selection, I looked back up the slope that I had walked down. Now I could see the Lodge perched on the hill.
Captain Melvin spoke to us about the boat and the adventure ahead. Eleanor, the co-captain was also on board to help the captain with his duties. The back of the boat had three huge containers of water, lemonade, and coffee. We were also each handed a bottle of water for the upcoming hike from the water’s edge to Rainbow Bridge. A bathroom was available on board. I settled back and listened to the groan of the boat’s motor as it began its first leg of a 100-mile round trip journey to the Bridge.
throughout the trip, Captain Melvin would sporadically come onto the public address system to describe the sights. Many times, the Desert Odyssey had to slow to a crawl because a houseboat or park ranger tugboat would be coming our way. Our large boat coupled its speed put out a large wake, which could spell disaster for these boats. Once we passed these vessels we would increase our speed down the lake.
Every turn through the irregular shaped Lake Powell, I experienced breathtaking views. Although the water level was low, the lake was at 50% capacity. The edges of the lake were amazing. The low water level has left a large white band on the rocks and canyon walls. This makes a picture perfect sight, deep blue water rippling against the chalked white rocks, which gradually changed to red rocks and then set off by the light blue sky. It was a sight to see. With every turn of the boat, new views could be spotted. Towering red rock formations, winding canyons, distant mountain ranges, caves cut out of the rock. Nature’s beauty was everywhere you looked.
Every once in awhile, you were brought back to reality when the boat slowed and a houseboat chugged by trailing its water toys or when I glanced to the rear of the boat to see a jet skier racing to catch up with our boat’s wake. Our wake afforded jet skiers the opportunity to fly through the air from the crest of one wake to another.
About a half an hour from Rainbow Bridge, Eleanor distributed our box lunches. The boxes were crammed full of delicious treats such as a ham and cheese sandwich, an apple, celery and carrot sticks (which included a container of ranch dressing for dipping), a cinnamon health bar, a mint candy, and a pack of Oreos. I separated and saved some of the food, so I would have a snack on the return boat trip.
Captain Melvin soon informed us that we were near. The boat veered off the main waterway down Forbidding Canyon and passed by the sign indicating the National Monument of Rainbow Bridge was up ahead. As the boat’s speed dropped, so did my mouth. The walls of the canyon closed in and the size of our boat paled. It was easy to see how the weather over time had formed the rocks smoothing them and allowing sunlight to reflect colors of the rock wall.
After several minutes, we turned down Cliff Canyon and then the boat came to a dock. Here is where I immediately jumped ship, so to speak. We were given an hour and a half to hike to Rainbow Bridge National Monument and back. As I ascended the dirt path, I noticed the temperature of the canyon also begin to rise. I continued my hike and spotted evidence of a later time when the lake water level was high. This would have made the hike to the Bridge much shorter. However, at the time of my trip, the hike was three miles round trip. As I proceeded, I passed by several hikers seeking shade along the carved out trail resting and wishing they had come better prepared for the trail. I pulled out the small water bottle that was given to me at the beginning of the boat trip and began drinking it. After about 15 minutes of walking, I rounded a bend to discover a view. Half of the Rainbow Bridge could be seen with the black rock of Navajo Mountain in the foreground. I immediately took a quick picture and pressed on.
the bridge made of Navajo sandstone was carved out of wind and water. It spans 275 feet and reaches a height of 290 feet. The top is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide. I had seen many photos of the monument, but none compared to actually standing there in person. Rainbow Bridge is very important to the Navajo, Hopi, San Juan, Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute and the White Mesa Ute tribes. Visitors are asked to show their respect to these cultures and to help in the preservation of such a remarkable rock formation by not approaching or walking under the Rainbow Bridge.
there are several spots along the trail that are ideal photo opportunities. Also, at the end of the trail is a large, flat rock perfect for more photos and/or to take in the bridge’s sheer size and beauty. There is a small mesquite wood shade structure off to the side that I used to hydrate and cool down before my trek back to the boat. Summer temperatures can get high. Proper clothing and sunscreen will make the trip much more pleasant.
Once back on the boat, I settled back to enjoy the drone of the boat’s engine and the fresh air streaming through the open windows. I reflected on those who had ventured out to see Rainbow Bridge in the past, President Theodore Roosevelt, the famous western writer Zane Grey, and the numerous photographers and writers, including National Geography.
Approximately halfway between Wahweap Marina/Lodge and the Monument, there lies a large bay called Padre Bay. Captain Marvin explained that this bay holds a gigantic rock formation named the “Crossing of the Fathers”. It marks a place in history. During 1776, two Spanish priests set off from Santa Fe to create an overland route to a military garrison on the California coast. They traveled for three months and reached the Great Basin in Utah. However, winter was setting in, so they decided to turn back. In doing so, they arrived at the Colorado River. However, crossing the river became almost deadly. They spent four days searching for a way to cross. Then on November 7th
, they carved steps into the rock canyon wall and led their pack stock across. The actual Crossing of the Fathers lies beneath the waters of Lake Powell, yet a grand rock marks the event.
As my boat rocked its way back to Wahweap Marina and Lodge, I decided to take the stairs up to the boat’s top deck. There in the late afternoon sun, I could see the rocks around the lake change shades to brown, red and yellow and blue sky was filled with white puffy clouds. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.