One noticeable difference is parking. There are open spots everywhere. Then the people. Where are they?

Everything else is the same. The lake is still a deep blue and the rock cliffs still a wide sweep of earth tones.The launch ramp runs into the water, the marina store sells ice cream bars and suntan lotion and gas is still a couple dollar a gallon at the fuel dock.

Scratch the people and the cars and boats, and Lake Powell in the off-season isn't all that much different from the on-season. It is cooler. Some days in the winter it's even cold, but seldom does it freeze.

Weighing it all, though, the off-season isn't so far off. In fact, more people are choosing the cooler temperatures for the less crowded beaches, marinas and coves these days.

Even scientist prefer the off-season. They used to come to the lake in the winter to launch weather balloons because, they said, the air was clearer and the winds calmer here than anywhere else in the area.

And then there are the reflections. Some say it's reason enough to visit during quieter times. One wall becomes two and one boat a pair. It's not that way in the summer. Too many boats and swimmers, and a too many breezes to allow the waters to smooth to a mirror finish.

Even the cooler waters aren't such a problem. Fact is, warm water typically carry over well into October. Wet and dry suits allow people to water ski and riding personal water crafts into November and December, and coming back again in April and May.

Then there's the fishing. The best fishing is in the late fall and early spring when the waters are cooler. The fish are more active in cooler waters. Also, larger fish, uncomfortable in warmer waters, surface to feed during cooler times. Twice the lake record striped bass was pulled from the lake around New Year's Day.

The famous Lake Powell boils, where feeding stripers frantically fight to get at smaller shad, start in the fall and carry into November. Avid fishermen hunt them out like kids on a treasure hunt. At the first sign of thrashing tails they move to the fringes and toss lures in the midst of the commotion. Sometimes they can fish this way for only a few minutes, but sometimes much longer.

Lake biologist Wayne Gustaveson with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, expects this off-season to be some of the best fishing yet, and the spring to be better yet. Shad numbers are at their peak, which means the fish in the lake, from stripers to crappie to largemouth, are healthy, fat and plentiful.

Yet another benefit of the off-season, says Steve Ward of ARA Leisure Services, managers of all the lakeside properties, is money. It costs less to visit Lake Powell in the off-season.

Starting in late September, rental fees for powerboats and houseboats drop 25 percent. Starting Nov. 1 they go to 40 percent off. Where reservations for houseboats are booked for the summer months, there's openings most any day in the off-season.

Some people, however, are somewhat timid about taking out a boat when they find a beach to camp on and seen no neighbors within sight.

"Which is one of the reasons with the newer boats we've put on-board radios and telephones. It helps ease the fear of being away from all the people," he adds.

It is, too, a good time to tour the lake and canyons in the off-season.

For one, there are no crowds at Rainbow National Monument. Somedays during the summer, finding a parking spot for a boat is like finding one for a car in downtown during Christmas.

Hole-In-The-Rock, the spot where early pioneers blazed a trail through a rock no wider than a small boat, and descended to the Colorado River down a steep, rocky ravine. It is located southeast of Bullfrog and is yet another attraction that can be enjoyed without other parties around in the off-season.

Some find hiking in the cooler climate much easier, too. This includes hikes to the bridge and Hole-In-The-Rock, but also any of the side canyons and ravines along the lake.

No question, there are some advantages to the off-season, especially for those trying to beat the crowds . . . and still looking for the Lake Powell experience.