98 miles NW of Kayenta; 272 miles N of Phoenix; 130 miles E of Grand Canyon North Rim; 130 miles NE of Grand Canyon South Rim

Had the early Spanish explorers of Arizona suddenly come upon Lake Powell after slogging for months across desolate desert, they would have either taken it for a mirage or fallen to their knees and rejoiced. Surrounded by hundreds of miles of parched desert, this reservoir, created by the damming of the Colorado River at Glen Canyon, seems unreal when first glimpsed. Yet real it is, and it draws people from around the region with its promise of relief from the heat—even though the place, in truth, can be infernally hot for much of the year.

When the Glen Canyon Dam was first proposed, an angry outcry arose. Many people felt that Glen Canyon was even more beautiful than the Grand Canyon and should be preserved in its natural state. Preservationists lost the battle, however, and construction of the dam began in 1960, with completion in 1963. It took another 17 years for Lake Powell to fill to capacity, during which time the rising lake saw service as a movie set for such films as The Greatest Story Ever Told and Planet of the Apes. Today, the lake is a watery powerboat playground, and houseboats and water-skiers cruise where once only birdsong and the splashing of waterfalls filled the canyon air. These days most people seem to agree, though, that Lake Powell is as amazing a sight as the Grand Canyon, and it draws almost as many visitors each year as its downriver neighbor.

While Lake Powell is something of a man-made wonder, one of the natural wonders of the world—Rainbow Bridge—can also be found on its shores. Called nonnozhoshi by the Navajo, or “the rainbow turned to stone,” this is the largest natural bridge on earth and stretches 275 feet across a side canyon off Lake Powell.

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The town of Page, originally a camp constructed to house the workers who built the dam, has many motels and inexpensive restaurants, and is the main base for most visitors to the area.