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Friday, April 15, 2005

We Visited Cathedral in the Desert

A group from and KSL Radio boated to Cathedral in the Desert on April 13-14, to see for ourselves the sight that has attracted so much national attention. It was a great trip: the Cathedral is spectacular, the weather was wonderful and it was fun to explore Lake Powell at its current low water level.

View this video clip from our trip.

The Cathedral exceeded my expectations. Often, when you hear extensive hype about something before you see it, the actual experience does not live up to your expectations. In this case I expected it to be great and it was exceptional. I'm glad I had the chance to visit it.

Powell's water level is now on the rise, coming up about 2 inches a day. That rate will increase as spring progresses and runoff becomes stronger. By mid-May the lake water level will probably be at or near the bottom of the waterfall. By July the waterfall may be completely covered by lake water.

So, if you want to see this phenomenon, now is the time.

On April 13 the lake's surface was at 3555.95 feet above sea level, a few feet below the bottom of the waterfall. You can track the lake level at this website.

I've noticed some faulty information in media reports about the Cathedral. Some have described this as a great hiking opportunity. You can boat into the Cathedral, just a few yards from the base of the waterfall, with no hiking involved. Some have tried to hike down to the Cathedral from Hole In the Rock Road. That is extremely difficult and requires specialized canyoneering skills and equipment.

Some imply Mother Nature is draining Lake Powell - that it is only a matter of time before the lake is gone. Extended drought plagued the Southwest for several years, causing Powell and many other reservoirs to fall to low levels. But the drought is now officially over. The lake is expected to rise 50 or more feet through the runoff period, then fall about 20 feet through the rest of the year. So the lake will have a net gain of about 30 feet during this water year.

The Cathedral is located in Clear Creek Canyon, on the Escalante Arm, about 23 miles down-lake from Bullfrog. Its colorful sandstone walls arch upward to form a huge cavern-like structure. Hanging gardens grow from seeps in the stone walls. A small stream falls down the cliff face at one end.

I've explored most of Powell's 96 named canyons. I've poked my nose into many beautiful spots. The Cathedral is now my favorite. It's worth the trip.

- Dave Webb


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