To help boaters avoid a long excursion to reach the main arm of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah, the Castle Rock Cut has been deepened to an elevation of 3,580 feet.
Castle Rock Cut is a popular short-cut route on Lake Powell that allows boaters at Glen Canyon NRA to shorten the trip between the major Wahweap Marina and destinations uplake by a distance of 12 miles. Years of drought and falling water levels for the lake almost routinely have forced crews to deepen this channel. This year the Park Service was aided by concessionaire ARAMARK to complete the latest deepening. Funds from project user fees were used to complete the project. Use of this shortcut to uplake areas will be dependent on lake levels and the draft of each vessel. As the lake rises, boaters are asked to exercise caution and use the Cut at their own risk.
The Cut was first deepened in the 1970s, to an elevation of 3,622 feet above sea level, and the work has been repeated several times since then. In early 2013, a project lowered the bottom elevation of the cut to approximately 3,600 feet, and the announcement of that work came with a bit of disclaimer: "If the lake drops further in subsequent years, excavation could continue to a maximum depth of 3580 feet."
With lake levels continuing to fall, the work for 2013 was largely in vain—the water never rose high enough during the summer tourist season for the deepened cut to be used by boaters. This year's deepening removed more than 70,000 cubic yards of material. The project was envisioned when an environmental assessment was completed back in 2008. That document called for plans, if needed, to deepen the cut by 35 feet over a five-year period.
Some, of course, will question the value of the work, with costs estimated by some sources in the neighborhood of $1 million, but boaters and business interests defend it. Depending upon the source used, travel through the cut saves approximately 10 to 12 miles of boating, and cuts an average of an hour or so off of the trip each way between the major marina at Wahweap and the majority of locations on the lake.
Construction on the Bullfrog main launch ramp has also been completed with funds from project user fees and assistance from ARAMARK. The concrete surface was extended to an elevation of 3570' and widened by an additional 40 feet. The ramp is fully operational and at current lake levels (3578') provides approximately 8 feet of water depth at the end of the ramp.
Antelope Point public ramp remains closed to launching due to water levels. Stateline ramp is scheduled to open May 22.