Due to low lake levels, a man-made channel had to be dug between Wahweap Bay and Warm Creek Bay. Without this channel, the boats would have to travel an additional 20 miles (1 hour at the boat's average speed) down to the Glen Canyon Dam and back up the Colorado River channel.
As we boarded the boat, we were given audio receivers and headsets. Temperatures where in the 50s when we started, so the headsets actually helped keep our ears warm! The narrator described the history of the area and pointed out the different buttes and mesas. Did you know a mesa is table like - long on top and short on the side. A butte is like a bar stool - short on top with long sides. Sometimes it was hard to tell whether a particular formation was a butte or a mesa:
Some of the buttes and mesas were all clumped together making them seem like little cities along our route.
Others stood out loud and proud, providing a point of reference for weary travelers.
The 20 mph winds in our face, and the boat's speed through the water, made the cool morning air even colder. By the time the first hour passed, the only folks left on the top of the boat were us and two Japanese ladies dressed in down jackets and rain pants. Below, Kathy is styling and profiling her multi layers: t-shirt, long sleeve thermal, fleece 100 pullover, fleece 200 jacket, Gortex shell, hat, hood and gloves!
We took about 200 photos. Each of the features were unique.
At mile marker 49, we left the Colorado River behind and began to work our way up Forbidding Canyon toward our final destination.
The sides of the canyon loomed over us, imparting a feeling that we were entering some secret hideout.
The ride through this slot canyon was breathtaking! After the last hairpin turn, we reached our destination. This courtesy dock is maintained by Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
As the lake level goes lower and lower, the dock is moved further and further out the canyon. Boats can no longer sail right up to the bridge. Visitors have to get out and hike 1.25 miles up to the bridge.
It is by no means a straight walk. Forbidding Creek twists and turns its way up the canyon. We passed a number of rocks slides and this really cool hanging garden.
After a 20-30 minute walk, rainbow bridge came into view. From its base to the top of the arch, it is 290 feet - nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty - and spans 275 feet across the creek; the top of the arch is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide.
Theodore Roosevelt, after his 1913 visit, recounted: "Next morning early we started our toilsome return trip. The pony trail led under the arch. Along this the Ute drove our pack-mules, and as I followed him I noticed that the Navajo rode around outside. His creed bade him never pass under an arch. This great natural bridge, so recently 'discovered' by white men, has for ages been known to the Indians."
Navajo stories tell of a male and a female rainbow person coming together in perfect union, and being frozen in time. This rock rainbow is particularly special because it is the only rainbow that can be viewed from both sides. However, because the arch is a Navajo sacred site for ritual offerings, sacred ceremonies, and other religious practices, tourists are asked not to walk under the arch. We felt it was a reasonable request.
The closer we came, the larger the arch grew. It made it difficult to photograph because you couldn't get the whole arch in the frame.
Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to a National Monument if we didn't take a selfie!
We took our time walking back to the boat. The sandstone cliffs reflecting in the creek made for some interesting photos.
As we boarded the boat, we noticed it was registered in Philadelphia, PA. What's a Philly boat doing in the middle of Lake Powell you might ask? According to our captain, Aramark won the contract to run the Lake Powell Resort. Since Aramark is a Philadelphia based company that provides food services to large venues such as schools and sporting arenas, the boat is registered in Aramark's home city, Philadelphia.
The clouds began to thin out on our ride back, giving us a completely different look at some of the mesas and buttes.
Near mile 42 is the entrance to the Dangling Rope Marina. Dangling Rope is only accessible by water. Aramark provides limited services at Dangling Rope, including: boat fuel, minor boat repair, and a supply store including some groceries. This is the only place to get boat fuel between Wahweap and the Halls Crossing/Bullfrog area - another 50 miles up river. We only stopped long enough for the boat to pick up and drop off some mail.
We were soon our way seeing things in a whole new light.
The closer we got to Wahweap, the more small boat and jet ski activity we saw.
We really enjoyed the trip to Rainbow Bridge. It was certainly worth the time and expense. If you like mesas and buttes, please feel free to scroll through the photos below.