The Lake Powell reservoir, on the Arizona and Utah border, is a major tourist attraction with close to 2 million visitors a year. Popular recreational activities include fishing, boating, and camping. Officially, the lake it is the second largest man-made reservoir in the country, though at this time it is larger than the largest reservoir, Lake Mead, because of the ongoing drought in the Las Vegas area. The Lake Powell reservoir was created after the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1966. The reservoir is named after American Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell who explored the area in 1869. In 1972, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was established and is currently managed by the National Park Service.
Two weeks ago, we returned from our first visit to Lake Powell and it didn’t disappoint. We camped and fished on the north side of the lake at a little-known location called Warm Creek Bay. To get there you must first take the famous Smoky Mountain Road then pass through an amazing slot canyon called Crosby Canyon. The Smoky Mountain Road is designated Route-230 and begins in the small town of Big Water, Utah. To find the road look for Ethan Allen Road off of the US-89 and turn north, the Smoky Mountain Road splits off from it. The first five miles of the Smoky Mountain Road is paved and after passing through a huge wash the road rises and turns into a well-graded dirt surface. About 13 miles up the road you’ll find Route-231 which leads to Warm Creek Bay. The turnoff is well marked with a large sign.
The drive through Crosby Canyon is about 5 miles long and very scenic. The holes and smooth texture of the canyon walls provide stark evidence that the canyon was underwater long ago. Crosby canyon is very narrow in places and the surface of the road sandy. We had no problem navigating through the canyon, though there are some steep sand dunes you must first pass through near the end before reaching the bay. This route is tailor made for Jeeps, though small, two-axle rigs like truck campers and van conversions can make the drive as well. You’ll definitely want to take pictures as you pass through the narrow slot canyon. It’s pretty neat.
Warm Creek Bay is a terrific fishing location though there are several terrific Jeep trails nearby. All of the places where you can set up camp are located on a small peninsula of land that juts out into the bay. This peninsula is large enough to accommodate a dozen RVs and is sufficiently sloped at the end to launch a small boat. We arrived at Warm Creek Bay on a Wednesday and apparently that was a good thing because we had the entire bay to ourselves. While setting up camp, we noticed that the catfish were jumping everywhere. Within 30 minutes of casting, I landed a foot-long channel catfish using trout bait.
Most of the RV “campsites” at Warm Creek Bay are primitive and are located on the aforementioned peninsula. Signs to Crosby Canyon and Warm Creek Bay limit camping to 14 consecutive days and no more than 10 days per calendar year. This is a pretty typical limit for dispersed camping on public land and seems generous due to the isolation and lack of services at the location. Due to the proximity of the lake, regulations also state that campers must carry and use a human sanitation device. Plastic bags are not allowed and this is strictly enforced. Rangers patrol Warm Creek Bay on a daily basis and you will be cited if you are caught violating this law.