Sapphire sky, pink stone, turquoise water. Three extravagances of nature ― each one deep and intense and starkly beautiful in itself ― intersect at Lake Powell, the West's most provocative spectacle. A manmade 186-mile-long footprint spanning Utah and Arizona, the lake is often plied by houseboats in spring and summer, but there's a much richer experience waiting for the active traveler.
I'm spending five days in this intersection, poking into tributary canyons by kayak and camping next to remote bays. The kayak is truly the ideal vessel for probing the lake ― quiet, unobtrusive, and able to snick into slot canyons too narrow for pudgy powerboats. And wherever the water ends, we simply park, pop our spray skirts, and hike up a canyon through quivery red muck and sculpted slickrock.
Most Lake Powell kayak expeditions involve a mother ship, either a houseboat or a dedicated ferry such as Hidden Canyon Kayak's pontoon boat, which has delivered six paddlers and half a ton of camping gear 40 miles up the lake from Wahweap Marina. Without the lift, we'd have faced two days of paddling in the relentless sun just to reach the more spectacular side canyons, and we wouldn't have luxuries like cold drinks and folding chairs.