Lake Powell Kayaking Overview
My fiancé and I recently purchased two Bay ST kayaks from Oru Kayak.
They are folding kayaks that fit nicely in the back seat of my Jeep Wrangler. No roof rack needed for these kayaks! We tested them out briefly on Mission Bay San Diego before deciding to jump to a bigger trip and test them out kayak camping.
I began researching different kayak camping spots within a reasonable distance from my home in San Diego. I found a great blog post written over at Bearfoot Theory outlining an interesting kayaking expedition in Lake Powell.
There are plenty of Lake Powell campsites where you can just beach your kayak pretty much anywhere. In the maps below I detail the locations of the campsite we stayed at along Lake Powell and throughout the trip report I point out any other Lake Powell Campsites that looked like a good place to spend the night.
Usually, I plan my bigger trips a little further out, but this one was planned less than a week before we would leave. I originally wanted to depart from Antelope Point Launch Ramp, but it was closed due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Luckily, State Line Boat Ramp was open! Departing from this boat ramp added a few miles to our trip, but that just made it even more epic!
By using State Line Boat Ramp we would also have to cross Wahweap Bay, which was a bit more open water travel than if we left from Antelope Point Launch Ramp.
Our goal for this trip was to kayak all the way to Labyrinth Canyon, kayak through it, and take a short hike through part of it. By leaving from State Line Boat Ramp, this would be around 32 miles of kayaking in order to get there and get back.
We did not plan out each night's campsite. Instead, we studied the map to decide on general areas that we could camp on and played each day out.
The Caltopo map and GPX files can be found here. I marked out the two campsites we ended up stopping at each night on this map.
One thing to note while reading this guide is that sometimes our kayak path may look like it crosses land or maybe it looks like we are camping on the water. This is because the water level in Lake Powell can change drastically from year to year. I am pointing this out not only because it may look odd on some of my maps, but this is a good thing to keep in mind while traveling in Lake Powell. The coastline depicted on your map will most likely not match exactly what you see in person while navigating this body of water.
Part 1: State Line Boat Ramp
Living in San Diego we both ended up taking Friday off from work and woke up around 1:30 am to make the almost ten-hour drive Lake Powell.
When we got to the Lake Powell’s State Line Boat Ramp, we asked ramp managers if this was the right place to launch our Oru kayaks. We were told to drive right around the corner to State Line Marina Boat Docks and launch from there.
I drove my jeep as close as I could get to the water's edge and we carried both our Oru Bay ST kayaks down to the water along with all our gear.
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We unloaded and launched our kayaks from the yellow area highlighted below:
When you are done unloading make sure you read all the signs and park in the right location. When we were there, the upper part of the lot highlighted in yellow below was marked for overnight parking:
Part 2: Wahweap Bay
Wahweap Bay was the first part of Lake Powell we had to paddle through. Wahweap Bay is a large body of water with a lot of boat traffic from State Line Boat Ramp and Wahweap Boat Ramp. We traveled across Wahweap Bay towards Castle Rock Cut. This was around 2.5 miles of paddling.
When we departed the State Line Marina Boat docks, the water was nice and calm in the Marina. Once we turned out on to the open water, there was some nice wind we fought all the way to Castle Rock Cut.
The wind didn't bother us too much at this point. We were filled with the adrenaline of just starting off on a new adventure, and the views were pretty terrific distractions.
Part 3: Castle Rock Cut
Castle Rock Cut is a small canal type water feature. If you plan on paddling through it, make sure it actually exists! There are some years that the water level is so low that the canal is not there. You would then have to travel a much farther route south on the Wahweap Bay to get into the rest of Lake Powell.
When we got to Castle Rock cut it was a nice reward for paddling across the bay. Immediately the water became super calm and the wind almost pushed us right through the canal! It felt almost effortless!
One thing to note is that Castle Rock Cut can get pretty busy with powerboat traffic. On the way out it was pretty nice and mostly empty for us, but on our final day on our way back to the Marina it was pretty packed with boats coming out into the Lake. It almost looked like a long parade of boats.
Part 4: North East Antelope Island to Camp
Once through Castle Rock Cut, we continued to follow the coast of Antelope Island, which was to our south.
As we approached the northern tip of Antelope Island we decided to stop for a quick snack and regain some energy before entering the choppier, large body of water.
The northern part of Antelope Island is pretty flat and desolate. It was a lot hotter on the coast than it was sitting on the kayaks on the water, but it was nice to rest our arms and have a quick bite to eat.
After getting back in our kayaks, the paddling got a little rougher and choppier as we rounded the northern tip of Antelope Island. We started heading south to get to a somewhat wide canyon in order to look for a place to camp.
On the map above you can see we took a bit of an odd turn and not a direct path into the next canyon that our campsite is located in. I got a little distracted by a cool looking cliff face and just kept paddling towards it before realizing what we did.
Eventually, we got back on course. Once we were back in the correct canyon, we started to look for a place to camp.
Part 5: First Nights Camp
At this point, the sun was getting a bit lower in the sky. Although we could have paddled for another hour, we started looking for a place to land and set up camp. This part of Lake Powell has some high cliffs, which makes it difficult to find a place to beach the kayaks and flat enough to set up camp. We didn't want to push further and risk not being able to beach the kayaks or having to set up camp in the dark.
Our "beach" landing was less of a beach and more of just some smooth rock. There was a small opening where we could dock both kayaks, although it was a tad steep when where we had to beach the kayaks
Once the kayaks were out of the water, we took our gear out and carried it just under a hundred meters inland. We found a spot that was sheltered from the wind and set up camp.
After enjoying the sunset, we ate dinner and filtered some water for the next day of paddling.
We also re-purposed my camera tripod to aid us in filtering our water. It worked fantastically:
Lastly, a quick video time-lapse of the area:
Part 6: Kayaking Towards Labyrinth Bay
Day one ended up being a total of 9.02 miles. Day 2 would start off with a little over 4-mile paddle towards Labyrinth Bay at the mouth of Labyrinth Canyon.
Once we got in the water it seemed a little bit calmer than it was the day before. We were excited to be heading towards Labyrinth Canyon and I was super stoked to get there!
Despite the water being calm, the wind was still stronger than I would have liked while we traveled through the main canyon towards Labyrinth Bay.
This section of Lake Powell was only 0.2 to 0.3 miles wide on average. It was a lot wider than the Castle Rock Cut we traveled through the day prior, however, unlike Castle Rock Cut powerboats can travel at a speed to make a wake.
At first, I wanted to travel pretty close to the walls of the canyon to try and avoid the wind, but this proved interesting as the boat traffic picked up. The waves would hit the canyon walls and bounce back, which created some pretty interesting wave patterns. It wasn't too crowded on the lake, so it wasn't too bad for us, but definitely something to be aware of when traveling through waterways such as this.
Paddling along this part of the canyon we did see a couple of other spots we could have easily camped at the night before. Although these sites might have been easier to get to, you never know what will be accessible depending on the water level in Lake Powell, so I am glad we stopped when we did.
As the canyon widened, the southern part started to reveal some really nice sandy beaches. These beaches are prime for camping on a non-windy day and a lot of boats seemed to claim these spots early.
As you follow this sandy beach, it wraps around towards the entrance of Labyrinth Bay. Right where the bay starts, we beached our kayaks on the soft sand to take a short break. We enjoyed some snacks and took in the wonderful views. Labyrinth Bay is absolutely beautiful!
Part 7: Finding Labyrinth Canyon
As we finally made it to Labyrinth Bay, we were pumped to finally arrive at the canyon!
In the map above you can see we made a very small detour. From across Labyrinth Bay we could see a small looking slot canyon that we believed to be the entrance. We paddled hard towards the slot canyon and were excited to find our kayaks to just fit. The walls stretched up all around us and looked super cool! Unfortunately, after a few paddles in we found the slot canyon was a dead end.
We ended up having to paddle out backwards because it was so thin, but it was a cool side adventure.
After the slot canyon detour, we found the actual Labyrinth Canyon entrance, which started out much wider. There were some very large houseboats camped out at the start of Labyrinth Canyon. One even had a helicopter on it, which took off right in front of me! The winds were so strong, I thought it was going to crash into me...
The paddle down Labyrinth Canyon proved to be worth the difficult paddle through choppy water and strong winds on our way to the canyon.
I was surprised at first how wide Labyrinth Canyon actually was, but it ever so slightly got narrower and narrower as you went further and further down the canyon.
Towards the end of the canyon, the water’s color drastically changed and became very silty. We rounded one last corner and we were able to beach our kayaks on dry land!
Part 8: Hiking Labyrinth Canyon
Having finally paddled through Labyrinth Canyon, it was time to beach the kayaks and go for a hike through the canyon. I didn't bring a GPS to mark how far we hiked up it, but it got pretty narrow quickly.
The first thing I noticed when I got off the water and into Labyrinth Canyon was how hot it was. The temperature on the water was very pleasant, but the heat was trapped in the canyon making it significantly hotter. The canyon trail is made of soft sand, which takes a bit more effort to walk through than hiking on a normal hard-packed trail.
Rachel found a nice cool shaded spot for us to sit down and have a well-deserved snack.
Part 8: Departing Labyrinth Canyon and Fighting the Wind
When we got back to our kayaks after hiking through the canyon we noticed the water had come in quite a bit since we had left. Our kayaks were still on dry land, but the water was a noticeable amount more up into the canyon.
When we departed, we noticed there was much more of a current in the water pushing into the canyon. As we rounded the first bend, we immediately felt the gust of wind in our faces. I didn't take any pictures or videos of our trip out. If we stopped paddling, we moved backward at a pretty fast rate...
It was steady, strong work to paddle out of the canyon in the wind. We tried to hug the sides of the canyon where we could to try and stay out of the wind as much as possible, but every new bend in the canyon we took, we were met with a blast of wind to the face.
We eventually made it out to Labyrinth Bay, which was very choppy and there was no break from the wind out there. We pushed to the first somewhat sandy beach we could find and stopped to assess for a camping spot. Unfortunately, there was no shelter from the wind here, so we decided to hug the coast and press on. It was Saturday and we planned to spend one more night, then paddle back to State Line Marina to head home on Sunday.
At this point I decided to take out my Delorme InReach (Now owned by Garmin), and use it to check the weather via Satellite.
Here is the weather report I got back:
Garmin In Reach GPS Quick Review
The GPS device pictured above is a Delorme In Reach which is an older model, before Garmin purchased the company.
These devices are awesome for off trail communication and navigation. They allow you to have two way texting communication with your loved ones while on the trail and you can quickly and easily call for emergency help if you need it. AS shown in this trip you can request weather reports while in the backcountry as well I highly recommend picking one up if you spend any time out of cell phone service. There are two models:
We continued to push and hug the coast, moving forward looking for spots to jump off and camp. At one point the wind was blowing so hard, we were getting pelted by water from the bow of our Kayaks slapping down between waves and also blasted by sand blowing off the coast. We just gritted our teeth and continued paddling.
I forget how many times we stopped, but it was at least 2 or 3 times that we just hit the shore to rest up, catch our breath and let our arms rest. I ended up taking out my beanie because I was starting to get cold from the blasting water and wind.
We eventually made it to a place where we could camp after a full day of 12.2 miles of kayaking. We were exhausted, but still had an amazing day exploring Labyrinth Canyon!
Part 9: Final Night and kayak Home
Our campsite was just outside of Labyrinth Bay and set us up for an 11-mile day of kayaking the next morning.
It was still pretty windy while setting up camp, but changed into our cozy dry cloths and got some warm food in our bellies. I knew the wind was supposed to end around 9 pm based on the weather report, so we could still get a decent night's sleep.
After dinner, we drank some wine and I did a little photography before we went to sleep for our final night along the coast of Lake Powell.
We woke up early the final morning to calm waters and almost no wind. We paddled swiftly back to the marina making only one stop on Antelope Island for some snacks. Castle Rock Cut was packed with small powerboats coming out for the day. Once we got back to the marina, we were exhausted, but we had a fantastic trip and I cannot wait to come back and visit Lake Powell again someday!
I have a lot of GoPro video footage that I still have to go through, so follow this discussion if you want to be notified when I post the video of our trip.