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Lake Powell Expected to Rise 50 Feet This Summer


At Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, years of drought, possibly an indicator of climate change, have revealed Lake Powell's bathtub walls. Spring runoff, however, could soon make those bathtub walls vanish. Photo by Marco Ammannati via flickr.

Climate change is taking it on the chin in the Rockies this winter. So much snow has fallen in the Intermountain West that when it melts it's expected to raise the level of Lake Powell by some 50 feet, to the highest point it's been since 2002. As a result, if you haven't already explored the previously submerged back canyons of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, your time is running out.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin is currently at 124 percent of average. As this snow melts, it will flow into the Colorado River and eventually into Lake Powell. What's interesting about this forecast is that NRA officials are not lamenting the soon-to-be-submerged landscape, but rather saying how the higher reservoir level will benefit boaters.

“With the runoff anticipated into Lake Powell this spring, it’s going to be a great summer at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We are expecting a busy season with the likely opening of the Castle Rock Cut,” said Superintendent Stan Austin.

The spring runoff is expected to reopen the Castle Rock Cut early this June. The Castle Rock Cut is a popular route on Lake Powell that allows boaters to conveniently travel between the Wahweap Marina and other destinations uplake. Traveling through the Castle Rock Cut saves about 12-miles to popular areas such as Rainbow Bridge, Padre Bay, and Warm Creek Bay. Due to long-term drought conditions, however, the Castle Rock Cut has not been usable since 2003.

With the promising spring runoff forecast, the National Park Service will not need to proceed with plans to deepen the Castle Rock Cut this spring. The Bureau of Reclamation’s projections for Lake Powell indicate that the Castle Rock Cut is expected to remain passable for boats into 2010. This will also save Glen Canyon NRA $1.5 million, which can be directed toward other park needs.

“Lake Powell should quickly start rising in April and May and it will be nearly impossible for us to deepen the cut this spring,” said Superintendent Austin.

The Park Service released an environmental assessment for public review in February 2008 that examined deepening the Castle Rock Cut so it would be passable for boats at lower water levels. The environmental assessment process will continue, even though the Castle Rock Cut will likely become passable to boats this summer.

Currently, public comments are being reviewed and analyzed. A formal decision about whether to proceed with the deepening project is expected to be made later this year, and the Cut could be deepened in the future if lake levels drop again.


Unbelievable! We are now lamenting the natural flow of snow-pack to river, & the attitude that we need to intervene in natural processes to make it 'easier' for visitors. This makes me gag. No wonder we are losing our place on Earth with species extinctions, habitat loss & environmental disasters: we refuse to allow Nature to take its course, & instead insist on manipulating all for human convenience ... terrific. I am a disabled person who is tired of having the Earth sabotaged for my theoretical benefit. What benefits me is to allow more unguided existence. Surely we humans have more than demonstrated our inability to 'govern' the Earth!

"...possibly an indicator of climate change." Ya think? When it rains, that is climate change. When it doesn't rain, that is climate change, too. Is this some kind of sleeper signal to the alien tinfoil hat crowd? Seems too inane on the surface.

Climate change is incredibly complicated. In fact, atmospheric scientists have pretty much quit saying that climate change is “more complicated than we know” and are now admitting that it is “more complicated than we will EVER know.” Are the fluctuating water levels of Lake Powell and some other western impoundments "indicators” of long-term changes in the regional or global climate? Kurt doesn’t know for sure, and I don’t know for sure, and you don’t know either. What we do know is that everything is connected to everything else, and nothing happens without a cause. Maybe someday scientists will be able to put the various facts together and understand what has caused these changes in precipitation and snowpack in the Rockies. Meanwhile, I see no reason why we shouldn’t speculate that these weather and runoff anomalies COULD be signals of long-term shifts in regional patterns of temperature and precipitation. In fact, the stewards of our western land, water, and wildlife resources have a solemn obligation to take that possibility into account in their management plans.

First we blame the lack of precip to climate change, then we blame too much on climate change. I am about to throw up. And using a single data point (one season's snow fall) to either prove or disprove any theory is scientifically bankrupt.

Let the science drive the conclusions!

Last year I was through the Lake Powell area (I go there every year) and was stunned how low the water level had gotten. It is somewhat good news that the water level is returning to normal.

"The science" has already spoken. Now it's up to the media, the politicians and of course the public to understand the interdependencies: Global warming means more energy in the climate system (as heat is energy, any rising of the medium temperature puts more energy in the system). More energy in a system dos not necessarily mean that all temperatures will rise. Only the average will, but some of the additional energy will show in more extremes (as that is another aspect or more energy in a system).

So expect more precipitation in shorter times, meaning flash floods. And more droughts. Both are aspects of more energy in the climate system.

What a bunch of baloney! Science has not spoken! There is not a scientific consensus on "Global Warming." Many legitimate scientists disagree with the idea that Global Warming is caused by man or that Global Warming is even occurring. So what happens if we have this same kind of winter for about 3 years in a row? Will the alarmists start shouting that man is causing a new ice age? To save face their mantra will change and become "Global Climate change." What a bunch of bunk! Man has no idea what is going on or how to control it. One volcano has the capacity to spew more material into the air than most people can imagine.

Nicely said Mr. Anonymous. I'm not convinced that there is a "climate crisis". I also doubt that there is very little, probably nothing, that we could do about it anyway. Here's an interesting piece you might enjoy reading:

So you're happier with the theoretical benefit not losing our place on Earth with species extinctions, habitat loss & environmental disasters. If you lived in the southwest, you would have been out of water for the last few years had it not been for Lake Powell. I think we should do all we can to make it easier for humans.

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