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Weekend Getaways

What is the largest artificial lake in Utah?

Utah has many artificial lakes. In fact, this state is home to some of the largest reservoirs and dams in the world. The largest is Lake Powell, which was once the second largest artificial lake in the United States after Lake Mead. However, in recent years, Lake Mead has fallen behind Lake Powell several times in depth, water volume, and surface area. Read on to find out everything you need to know about Lake Powell!

History of Lake Powell, the largest reservoir in Utah

Lake Powell is the largest reservoir in Utah.


Lake Powell is located in Bluff, Utah. It is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, stretching 186 miles of Glen Canyon. It’s one of Utah’s hottest vacation destinations, with more than two million visitors visiting its shores annually.

The lake was created in 1963 as part of the Glen Canyon Dam project. Glen Canyon Dam holds back the water of the Colorado River, causing the water to form Lake Powell. The lake was named after the famous expedition member John Wesley Powell. Powell pioneered the exploration of Glen Canyon in the 1860s.

Planning for Lake Powell began in the 1940s and 1950s. During this time, the US Bureau of Reclamation planned to build several dams along the Colorado River. The dams were to be built in the Colorado Plateau province of Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

Lake Powell’s dam

The dam, which now contains the waters of Lake Powell, was to be built at Echo Park. However, the site originally chosen is now home to Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. Construction of the dam was opposed by a small but influential group of political lobbyists led by David Bower of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club successfully lobbied for Echo Park’s natural and scenic qualities, saying it was too valuable to be submerged.

Therefore, construction was changed to Glen Canyon Dam, which was built to solve Upper Basin States’ downstream delivery obligations by creating an “aquatic bank” to meet the Lower Basin States’ Compact Calls.

Construction began on October 1, 1956. The project was directed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who initiated the first blasting of his Oval Office desk. The first blast cleared several water diversion tunnels. On February 11, 1959, the water diversion was completed and dam construction could begin. Later that year, the government completed construction of a bridge that trucks could use to bring supplies and materials for dam construction to the site. Construction of the city of Page, Arizona, also began at this time.

Concreting of the dam began on June 17, 1960. Thereafter, concrete was poured 24 hours a day, seven days a week until September 13, 1963, when the last bucket of concrete was poured onto the dam. The dam cost $155 million and 18 people died during construction.

From 1970 to 1980, construction work began with the installation of turbines and generators that enabled Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydroelectric power. Finally, on September 22, 1966, the dam was dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States.

How big is Lake Powell? How does it compare to other lakes?

Lake Powell, the largest artificial lake in Utah 1
Lake Powell stores more than 25 million acre-feet when full.


Lake Powell is Celebration. This man-made lake stores up to 25,166,000 acre-feet when full, making it just 3,064,000 acre-feet smaller than Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in America. At full capacity, Lake Powell’s water surface is 3,700 feet.

The maximum length of the lake is 186 miles, with a maximum width of 25 miles. The surface of the lake is 161,390 acres, roughly 254.1 square miles. Lake Powell has an average depth of 132 feet and a maximum depth of 583 feet. Finally, the lake has approximately 1,900 miles of shoreline, making it an excellent tourist destination for lake visitors.

Lake Powell’s surface is quite gigantic. It is slightly larger than Lake Mead, although Lake Mead has a larger storage capacity than Lake Powell. However, Lake Powell is completely dwarfed by other lakes in the United States, such as the Great Lakes (although perhaps that was pretty obvious since they are considered “great”).

Lake Powell Flora: What Plants Grow Near Lake Powell

Glen Canyon, Utah
Glen Canyon has a lot of beautiful flora.


There are two main types of flora that you will find in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area. These are hanging gardens and vascular plants. Because Glen Canyon is in a desert, the flora you’ll find in the area is hardy and can withstand the heat and lack of water. However, the vegetation you see in the area is heavily influenced by location, which can alter soil composition and water availability. So you end up with a stark contrast of lush hanging gardens fed by the springs versus the low-growing shrubs of the loam badlands.

Hanging Gardens

The Glen Canyon Hanging Gardens are beautiful green gardens that grow along the cliffs of Glen Canyon. Plants are fed by the upstream springs, allowing lush greenery to grow in the harsh deserts of Glen Canyon. As a result, many mosses, lichens and algae populate the cliffs of Glen Canyon.

Hanging gardens typically grow into small “valleys” where the area is cooler and wetter than the surrounding deserts. They are named after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where plants were artificially grown on walls and roofs to give the populace a great view of the vegetation.

Glen Canyon’s valleys are fed by a local aquifer fed primarily by winter precipitation. The water flows down through porous rocks and cracks in the cliffs, feeding the plants that grow along the cliff walls.

vascular plants

Any plant growing along the canyon that is not moss, lichen, algae, or fungus is considered a vascular plant. Vascular plants have vascular networks that move water throughout the plant, hence the name. Plants without vessels, such as those in the hanging gardens, absorb water and nutrients through a membrane rather than veins.

Herbaceous plants are by far the most common vascular plants in Glen Canyon. A study documenting the canyon flora found that 53% of vascular plants were perennial herbs, 26% annual herbs, and 3% biennial herbs. Only 13% of the plants found in the study were shrubs and only 2.5% were succulent shrubs and trees. Cacti don’t usually grow in this area because it’s too cold.

Over 90 plant families are found in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA). Among these, the five most abundant plant families are the aster family (Asteraceae), the grass family (Poaceae), the pea family (Fabaceae), the mustard family (Brassicaceae), and the goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae).

Glen Canyon Fauna: What Animals Can Be Found Near Lake Powell?

California condor bird on a rock with wings outstretched against the blue sky
California condors are just one bird that calls Glen Canyon home.

©Barbara Ash/

Lake Powell is home to hundreds of species of animals including reptiles, birds, fish and mammals. Park rangers around Lake Powell encourage you to keep an eye on the ground when hiking or walking near Lake Powell. There are many small species of reptiles that you may accidentally come across and be bitten by if you don’t. These species include some dangerous reptiles. So remember to keep an eye out for scaly friends to stay away from when you’re out there.

Bird watchers also have an excellent variety of birds to watch at Lake Powell. Lake Powell is home to over 315 species of birds including herons, owls, eagles and ducks. The lake also has a partnership with Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, so you can check online what birds are most common in the area before you even set foot in the park!

Lake Powell is also an excellent destination for anglers. The lake is home to smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, channel catfish, crappies and bluegills, among others. The lake is also home to tons of endangered fish for you to observe. Just make sure you don’t catch and keep any endangered fish!

Finally, the area is home to several large mammal species such as coyotes, bighorn sheep, and bobcats. However, these animals tend to stay away from humans. So you may not see them as easily as other creatures you share space with. However, if you are quiet you can see some!

Final Thoughts

The Glen Canyon area is an excellent destination whether you want to go boating, hiking or just soaking up the sun. This area is home to many species of flora and fauna, making it a wonderful place to explore and learn. We hope that through our article you learned a little bit about the world around us. If you liked what we had to say, drop us a comment or share our article! We look forward to reader feedback!

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