This huge canyon is a spectacular wonderland of stark contrasts -- parched desert, deep blue water, startlingly red rocks, rich green hanging gardens. A joint effort by man and nature, Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a huge water park, with more shoreline than the West Coast of the continental United States. It's also a place of almost unbelievable beauty, where millions of visitors each year take to the water to explore, fish, water-ski, swim, or simply lounge in the sun.
Named for Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran who led a group of nine explorers on a scientific expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers in 1869, the lake is 186 miles long and has almost 100 major side canyons that give it 1,960 miles of shoreline. And with more than 160,000 surface acres of water, it's the second-largest man-made lake in the United States (after Lake Mead).
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with Lake Powell at its heart, is three parks in one: a major destination for boaters and fishermen, a treasury of scenic wonders, and an important historic site. Lake Powell is best enjoyed by boat -- you can glide through the numerous side canyons among delicately sculpted sandstone forms that are intricate, sensuous, and sometimes bizarre, that were formed by millions of years of erosion. One rock formation that's considered a must-see for every visitor is Rainbow Bridge National Monument, a huge natural stone bridge sacred to the Navajo and other area tribes. And there's much more to see: the 1870s stone fort and trading post at Lees Ferry, the Ancestral Puebloan (also called Anasazi) ruins of Defiance House, and the dam, which supplies water and electric power to much of the West.