At 5 a.m. on a September morning, with not a sign of another human being up and about, I owned Lake Powell— owned in the sense that possession is 9/10ths of the law, and at that hour, as dawn was about to break over Antelope Point Marina— there was no one else capable of challenging my claim. Standing outside the world’s largest floating restaurant, alone on the marina decking, with the bottom of the lake far below, this entire waterway was all mine.
Luckily, my parents had taught me the importance of sharing… important in this case because millions of people from all over the world visit Lake Powell every year. Earlier this decade the Navajo nation decided to promote its site, seven miles east of Page, within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, as a destination spot on what may now be the largest man-made lake in the U.S..
Since antelope once roamed free in this area and hunters would go to the highest hillside to search for them, the locale was named Jadi’ Tsi’zi’—Antelope Point. Early native inhabitants once used the area to graze sheep and would lead their flocks down to the river over steps carved in the side of Navajo Canyon. That rugged trail, known as Miners Staircase, can still be seen today.
Antelope Point Resort and Marina broke ground in May 2003 and opened its marina service operations a year later as part of a total development project estimated at $80 million. The 27,000-square-foot Marina Village complex is on the main lake channel over 400 feet of water. According to its designers is the largest floating platform of its type in the world. The marina, built in partnership with the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service to quietly blend with cultural tradition is designed to honor the heritage of the Navajo Nation, complement the environment, provide public access to the lake, and serve a luxury houseboat market with several hundred of these floating hotels moored in wet slips and ready to be rented from Forever Resorts L.L.C. “The dream started way back, even when I was a young man, and it’s finally come to fruition,” said Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., as he wielded large scissors to cut the ceremonial ribbon in the opening ceremony. “It takes coming together to be successful and today marks a very special day because it signifies one of our successes in this part of the country at Page, Arizona – and when we are successful, we all benefit. Success of the marina means success to our nation and its people.”
Already featured in National Geographic Adventure as a recommended “Instant Adventure,” the resort has a 5,000-square-foot store and full-service restaurant/lounge face east with an entry skylight built to represent the hole in the roof of a hogan. Custom and culture are also evident in the marina entrance and turn-around that provide ingress and egress toward the east to greet the rising sun, considered the sustainer of life. The centerpiece of this floating wonder is the lake’s only on-the-water restaurant, Ja’di’tooh or Antelope River, seating more than 200 customers and offering a menu that ranges from standard sandwiches and wraps to Navajo tacos and wood-fired pizzas.
With the village, store, and restaurant in place (and some 60% of its 225 employees tribal hires), revenue that benefits the nation is generated by annual land rental, operational tax proceeds, and employee payroll. It’s a good situation for the tribe and its nearby community neighbors, and it could get better with future development plans hinging on where the economy ends up. Still on the drawing board are designs for a Navajo Cultural Center, a Navajo Community Hotel with 225 resort casita units, and space for RV parking/camping.
In the meantime, the choices for on-the-water sleeping include rental houseboats, ranging from a 59-footer that sleeps 10 to the 75’ Silver XT Luxury cruiser, which accommodates large groups with its five private staterooms and has beds for 12 – as well as satellite dish service, a 45” flat screen TV, a wet bar and hot tub, and many more amenities. [Forever Houseboats, (800) 255 5561]
If excitement is what you’re after, wakeboarding or waterskiing on Lake Powell is a great way to get your adrenalin fix and work up an appetite. There’s also, of course, the opportunity to do absolutely nothing. Catching a tan, reading a book on the deck, and watching the sunset over the red rock cliffs that surround the lake are unbeatable ways to spend time.
And for those who enjoy the sport of angling: “I may be biased on this, but it’s one of the best fisheries in the world,” says Utah fisheries biologist Wayne Gustaveson who has charted these waters and chased its fish for the past 35 years. “It’s got a wide mix of species with a total package of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, walleye, and crappie…and this year, taking the health of all species into consideration, is the best I’ve seen in over three decades.”
The size of Lake Powell can be pretty intimidating for first-time visitors to the 560-feet deep, 254-square mile lake with a shoreline the length of the West Coast of the United States. “Where do you start when as far as you can see, there’s nothing but lake?,” says Gustaveson. To help beginners, especially the fishing populace, he’s created www.WaynesWords.com to guide new arrivals to a place to start, a technique to use, and an ability to catch some fish on their own.
Antelope Point Marina, a facility like no other, represents a proud moment for the Dine people and stands as an ultimate destination for travelers from all over the world.
Antelope Point Marina (928) 645 5900 www.antelopepointlakepowell.com
Forever Resorts Houseboats (800) 255 5561 www.foreverhouseboats.com
Navajo Tourism information (928) 871 6436 www.discovernavajo.com/apm.html