ILX Trip to Southern Utah Part 1: Lake Powell
Odometer (ILX): 48,648
Leg Distance: 491 Miles
Coming to a blog near you: A 3-part series about this weekend’s trip to Southern Utah’s red rock backcountry. The Acura ILX 6-speed hit the highway again for a 1,083-mile on- and off-road adventure that I’m looking forward to sharing with you.
The intent of this trip was to meet up with my friend Ryan who had joined me on the Arches National Park trip back in February. We were determined to check out some of the most scenic roads that Utah has to offer.
About 50 miles north of Flagstaff on the Navajo Indian Reservation, there’s a bridge crossing the Little Colorado River near the town of Cameron. An old suspension bridge seen in the background here was built in 1911 and spans 680 feet. It was damaged by an overload of sheep in 1937! However, it was repaired and continued to carry automobile traffic until 1959 when it was replaced by a newer bridge just to the east.
Because of the weight restrictions imposed on the bridge, there was a secondary route that truckers were required to follow, called the Overweight Truck Route. Signs for that bridge are still in place but the route is now closed.
I still took the ILX to explore a little about what’s left of that old alternate route.
There’s a lot of neat road history in this area. An old stretch of Highway 89 parallels the current highway. I saw this section where it had buckled in various places over a wash crossing, forming a zig-zag of concrete.
I branched off to the northeast on Highway 160 and headed in the direction of Four Corners, stopping along the way to get a picture at the remains of a service station. Standard Oil, dating back to 1870, was once the largest oil refiner in the world.
This particular station looked like it hadn’t seen any customers for at least half a century, though.
As dusk fell, I was rolling northward on Highway 163 through Monument Valley. Traffic was light and this was a great chance to enjoy the open road and the amazing scenery that surrounded me.
The employee at the front desk of the Super 8 Motel in Blanding, Utah, told me after I’d checked in for the night, “You’ve got a really nice car.” I glanced outside to where it was parked. It did look rather photogenic in that light.
Ryan arrived at about this same time in his black 1996 Audi A6 Quattro. We called it a night fairly early, because we wanted to be rested up for the next day, when we’d be seeing this. (Photo Credit for this pic)
Lake Powell is a body of water on the Colorado River that covers over 250 square miles. That makes it the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States. Creation of this lake was made possible by construction of the Glen Canyon Dam which was completed in 1963.
It took 11 years for the water to fill up to the high water mark!
The above picture of me with my dad was taken in July 1987. Lake Powell was a favorite boating destination for my family when I was growing up. Here’s another classic from a few years later (I’m on the right).
The arch seen in the background there has a story of its own. Lake Powell is home to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, a 290-foot-tall sandstone natural bridge that had been seen only by the Native Americans until 1909.
Ryan and I decided to transport our vehicles across Lake Powell via a ferry that’s been in operation since 1985 called Hall’s Crossing. The drive from Blanding to Hall’s Crossing was 88 miles via scenic byways 95 and 276 . As seen here, the rate for vehicles is $25 so we were prepared with cash to pay our fares.
This curvy two-laner was prime environment for the 6-speed ILX. I found I rarely needed to downshift to get up the grades. Interestingly enough, we only saw one other vehicle on this road, and it ended up being a ferry employee who blew past us. She must’ve been late for work!
Soon we could see a sliver of blue water in the distance. We’d arrived at Hall’s Crossing. The road to this crossing was completed in 1969.
The park ranger let us in the marina without paying the $15 per vehicle fee, since we were just going to catch the ferry rather than spend time boating. Her instructions were, “Don’t recreate.” As in, recreation, not re-creation. Still sounded funny to use that word in such a context.
As we got closer to the ferry dock, it became apparent that the water level looked pretty low.
I’ve since learned that Lake Powell’s water level fluctuates greatly depending on rainfall and other factors; it is now at its lowest point in 5 years.
After a 30-minute wait for our 9:00 a.m. departure, the ferry attendant waved us onward and the ILX climbed the ramp to get on the boat.
The ferry is 3 lanes wide. I would estimate it could accommodate 15 or so vehicles. Ryan and I were in our element! A ferry operator came on an intercom and instructed everyone that we could exit our cars and wander around.
Here was the ILX’s parking space for the 30-minute ride from Hall’s Crossing to Bullfrog Marina.
And we’re off!
Notice the water line evident behind us as we made our way across the lake.
Because of the way Lake Powell is laid out and how it extends into so many different canyons, there are nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline – more than the west coast of the United States!
I was able to stand at the back of the ferry and watch the waves which we were creating.
Views surrounded us on all sides as we motored past houseboats, ski boats, and jet skis. When people see the ferry coming, they get out of the way!
Captain Tyson at your service.
The ferry itself was only built about 13 years ago but to me it looked much older.
All too soon, our joyride was over but another one was yet to begin. After we exited the lake, Ryan and I plotted out our game plan for where we’d take our cars next. I think you’ll enjoy the next piece of the story. Stay tuned.