Arizona recreation destination Lake Powell was nearly created in Colorado's own Echo Canyon

Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-05 22:10:52-04

PAGE, Ariz. -- At 189-miles long and with 1,900 miles of shoreline, Lake Powell outside Page, Ariz., is a popular recreation destination in the southwest. But to see it all, you really need to see it from the air.

National Park Service pilot Nick Herring took Denver7’s Eric Lupher on a tour of the massive lake formed by the waters of the Colorado River behind Glen Canyon Dam. Herring says without the lake and the dam, the area would be a lot different.

Colorado River: Lifeline of the West airs Saturday, August 5 at 6:30pm with an encore presentation Sunday, August 6 at 2pm. 

“The lake is probably the largest economic generator in this part of the country,” Herring said. “I'm not sure early on if they really recognized what the potential was for the growth it has spurred over the years.”

Arizona’s Glen Canyon was not the first choice for the dam and reservoir.

Park superintendent Billy Shott says the first plan would have built a dam in Echo Canyon in Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument, flooding the Green and Yampa River valleys with water.

“There was such a well-organized political fight to keep that from getting washed under,” Shott said. "It really helped organize a lot of movements in the U.S. to look at how lands used, and certainly how water, is used.”

The water from Lake Powell is used in part of the five states that make up the Colorado River’s upper basin – Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The Colorado or its tributaries flow through all those states.

Right now, a lot of Colorado snowpack has water levels rising at Lake Powell.

“We've got areas of the lake that are opening up that haven't been opened up in years,” says aquatic ecologist Mark Anderson. He says that means many areas are under water the first time in a decade, which can provide great nursery habitats for certain species of fish.

Visitors say they are astonished by what they see.

“It's unbelievable how big this lake is,” said Bill Bowersox, who was visiting from New Jersey along with his wife Dorothy.

“The Colorado River, I mean it's beautiful,” added his wife. “We did the sunrise yesterday at the Grand Canyon. Out of this world it was."