• Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell

Lake Powell is the heart of the huge Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which at 1.25 million acres is about the size of Grand Canyon National Park. Created by the barrier of Glen Canyon Dam in the Colorado River, Lake Powell is ringed by red cliffs that twist off into 96 major canyons and countless inlets (most accessible only by boat) with huge, red-sandstone buttes randomly jutting from the sapphire waters. It extends through terrain so rugged it was the last major area of the United States to be mapped. You could spend 30 years exploring the lake and still not experience everything there is to see. In the 1990s, the Sierra Club and Glen Canyon Institute started a movement to drain the lake to restore water-filled Glen Canyon, which some believe was more spectacular than the Grand Canyon, but these efforts failed to gain significant momentum, and the lake is likely to be around for years to come.

South of Lake Powell the landscape gives way to Echo Cliffs, orange-sandstone formations rising 1,000 feet and more above the highway in places. At Bitter Springs the road ascends the cliffs and provides a spectacular view of the 9,000-square-mile Arizona Strip to the west and the 3,000-foot Vermilion Cliffs to the northwest.

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