So, what is it like to actually drive one of these bad boys? Well the best way I can describe it is like this, “It’s like trying to drive your house, on water, with a motor built for a canoe.” But the thrill of gliding across water (or lack there of), is not the reason you rent one of these boats. You’re there to explore and navigate the canyons of Lake Powell it a truly immersive experience that you just cannot get without traveling by house boat.
Renting a house boat was a part of a vacation my Fiancé, her Parents, our dog, and I took in the beginning of October. Starting at Bullfrog Marina, located on the northern half of Lake Powell. What exactly is Lake Powell, and why is it so special you might ask? Well, Lake Powell is actually a reservoir on the Colorado River located on the boarder of Utah and Arizona. It’s the second largest man-made lake behind Lake Mead. It was created by flooding Glen Canyon and named after the one-armed Civil War veteran John Wesley who explored the Colorado via wooden boats. But even after all the history lesson of this place, it’s still not the reason why over 2 million visitors come here every year to recreate.
People, like us, come to Lake Powell to get the opportunity to explore sandstone canyons in one of the most unique ways. Via boat. Imagine flooding Zion National Park, hard to believe, I know, but try to think about that. No longer are these cliff walls hundreds of feet above your head and inaccessible. Now you’re able to boat right up to them and reach places that you never thought were possible.
Our houseboat experience here was incredible. Over the four days we rented the boat, we were able to explore Moqui Canyon, Forgotten Canyon, Crystal Springs Canyon, and Ferguson Canyon. Each night we were able to beach the boat in a different location and have a campfire in one of the remote regions of the Southwest. But that sure-as-hell didn’t come without a bunch of challenges and struggles with this houseboat. None of us had ever rented one of these before, let alone tried to beach these huge vessels in places where very little accessible beaches existed. There was a steep learning curve.
As I mentioned before, motoring one of these houseboats is no easy task. They steer like a house and move about as fast as your grandmother’s grocery store scooter. So if you’re looking to get places fast, this is not the method of transportation for you. We spent 2-4 hours a day moving the houseboat from canyon to canyon, when it’d only take a speedboat 30min-1hr to cover that same distance. But by the end of the trip, that is what I loved the most about the experience. It forced you to slow down, take a look around, and absorb the incredible landscape we were passing through. Face it, this place is easily one of the most beautiful, unique landscapes in the desert.
The houseboat does come with every amenity you could ever need. It’s a floating house! Toilets, refrigerator, freezer, stove, beds, sink, charging outlets, you name it! Of course, using anything that requires electricity does come with a bit of challenge at first. See, an appliance requires power, and these boats aren’t hooked up to an electrical grid like your house, so the power needs to come from somewhere. These houseboats have onboard 4 car batteries that are, unlike a car, charged by a generator instead of the running motor. And to make the electricity work, you must navigate a series of switches that resemble the circuit breaker closet in your house.
Want to flush the toilet? Well you have to turn the water pump on, which also requires you to flip the battery on. To make sure your batteries are charged, you need to run the generator for a few hours each day. Now imagine that for everything you want to use on the boat. Which is why we mostly kept the power off and rarely used any of the appliances… besides the ridge. We needed cold beer.
But hey, we weren’t there to review the boat. We were there to camp and explore places we’ve never been and be able to sleep there at night. The houseboat was a perfect solution for us. We were able to wander through Native American ruins in Forgotten Canyon, kayak below scaling sandstone walls, swim in the brisk fall water of Lake Powell, and do this all with our dog too! And it’s hard to beat our nightly ritual of drinks by a campfire from all the driftwood on the beach, followed by an incredibly prepared dinner by Courtney and her mother.
It was a trip so good, I couldn’t wait to book it again!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.