Until 1957, only sand and desert vegetation lay atop Manson Mesa (elev. 4,300 feet) in far northern Arizona, where Page now sits. That's when construction workers converged to build one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken—Glen Canyon Dam. The concrete structure gradually grew to a height of 710 feet, creating a lake covering 250 square miles with a shoreline of nearly 2,000 miles.
Prefabricated metal buildings for barracks, dining hall, and offices sprouted on the mesa. Trailers rolled in, one serving as a bank, another as a school. Newly planted grass and trees brought a touch of green to the desert. The remote spot gradually turned into a modern town with schools, businesses, and churches. Page (pop. 9,500), named by the Bureau of Reclamation for one of its commissioners, is the largest community close to Lake Powell and offers travelers a variety of places to stay and eat.
With the Arizona Strip to the west, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the north, and the Navajo Reservation to the east and south, Page makes a handy base for visiting all of these areas. The town overlooks Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. The extensive services of Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas lie just six miles away at Wahweap.
This varied collection (6 N. Lake Powell Blvd., 928/645-9496 or 888/597-6873, www.powellmuseum.org, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., call for weekend hours, closed mid-Dec.–mid-Feb., $5 adults, $3 seniors 62 and up, $1 kids 5–12) honors scientist and explorer John Wesley Powell. In 1869 Powell led the first expedition down the Green and Colorado River canyons, then ran the rivers a second time in 1871–72. It was he who named the most splendid section the Grand Canyon.
Old drawings and photographs illustrate Powell's life and voyages. Fossil and mineral displays interpret the thick geologic sections revealed by the canyons of the Colorado River system. Other exhibits contain pottery, baskets, weapons, and tools of Southwestern tribes, as well as memorabilia of early river runners, Page's early days, and Glen Canyon Dam. You can watch related videos on request. Regional books, videos, and posters are for sale. Staff offer travel info and can book Lake Powell boat tours, float trips, Antelope Canyon tours, and scenic flights.
Navajo offer cultural programs about their beliefs and traditional skills from April to October at this living museum (928/660-0304, http://navajovillage.com). The four-hour An Evening with the Navajo begins with demonstrations of cooking, weaving, and silversmithing, along with explanations of the sweat lodge and the two types of hogans here. You'll enjoy a dinner of traditional foods, watch song and dance performances, and listen to campfire stories.
The Best Dam View
An excellent panorama of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River can be enjoyed just west of town. It's reached via Scenic View Road behind Denny's Restaurant off US 89; turn west at the junction of US 89 and N. Lake Powell Boulevard or west beside the Glen Canyon N.R.A. headquarters building and turn at the sign for "scenic overlook." A short trail leads down to the best viewpoint.
An eight-mile trail for walkers, joggers, and cyclists encircles Page with many views of the surrounding desert and Lake Powell. The unpaved route generally follows the edge of the mesa and has some sandy and rocky sections that will challenge novice bike riders. If you find yourself more than 30 vertical feet below the mesa rim, you're off the trail. You can pick up a map from the chamber office. A popular starting point is at the short nature trail loop near Lake View School at N. Navajo Drive and 20th Avenue in the northern part of town.
You'll see photos around town of the beautifully convoluted rock in this canyon, so narrow in places that you have to squeeze through. Sunshine reflects off the smooth Navajo Sandstone to create extraordinary light and colors that entrance visitors. Light beams reach the floor of upper Antelope only at midday from May to August. Photographers need to bring a tripod to help capture the infinite colors, shapes, and patterns. Check the weather forecast before heading out, as slot canyons are deadly during a flash flood.
Antelope Canyon has a wider upper section known as "Corkscrew" that's exceptionally user-friendly—it's an easy walk on the sandy floor all the way through. The narrower lower section has ladders and requires a bit of scrambling. The shallow wash in between that you see from the highway gives no hint of the marvels up or downstream. Both sections can easily be reached from Page by driving south on Coppermine Road or east on AZ 98 to the junction at Big Lake Trading Post, then continuing east one mile on AZ 98 toward the power plant. Turn right into the parking area for the upper canyon, or turn left half a mile on paved Antelope Point Road for the lower canyon. You'll pay $6 for a tribal entry permit—good for all sections—plus shuttle or entry fees. Sightseers can tour either section easily in an hour; photographers will probably wish to spend more time. The upper section has a $15 shuttle charge for the 3.5-mile drive to the trailhead and a one-hour guided visit; no walk-ins or private drive-ins are permitted. The cost increases to $25 for a two-hour photographer tour; a two-hour stay limit may apply. The lower canyon can be visited on guided or self-guided walks for $12.50 plus the $6 park fee. Children pay less. Guided excursions from Page to upper Antelope tend to be more convenient and cost only slightly more; see Tours, below.
Rattlesnake Canyon, located near upper Antelope, also has beautiful narrow passages. It's reserved for photographers, who pay $25 first hour and $5 each additional hour. The upper Antelope ticket office provides a shuttle service.
The upper canyon ticket booth is usually open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily April–Oct., then about 9 a.m.–3 p.m. daily in winter. The lower canyon closes by 4 p.m. Note that these hours are the same as Page, which does not go on Daylight Savings Time. Try to avoid coming late in the day as the canyons may close early if business is slow. For information and off-season access, call the Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park (928/698-2808) in LeChee, four miles south of Page. Both the upper canyon ticket booth and the LeChee office issue Rainbow Bridge hiking permits.
Horseshoe Bend Overlook
The Colorado River makes a sharp bend below this spectacular viewpoint. Look for the parking area just west of US 89, 0.2 mile south of Milepost 545; it's 2.5 miles south of Page's Gateway Plaza. A three-quarter-mile trail (one way) leads from the parking over a sandy ridge to the overlook. Photographers will find a wide-angle lens handy to take in the whole scene. Late mornings have good light for pictures; afternoons can be dramatic if the sky is filled with clouds.
On to Page Practicalities
On to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area