With over 1.25 million acres of scenic recreation, Glen Canyon National Park attracts millions of visitors annually. Its most popular attraction, Lake Powell, stretches 186 miles in length and has 1,960 miles of shoreline, bringing water sports lovers around the country to its shores.

Powell is the second largest human-made lake in the United States. Its reservoir is primarily filled by snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains that feeds into the Colorado River along its upper basin states: Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. Glen Canyon then works as a network that sends water to lower basin states, including Nevada, Arizona and California.

In 2022, it saw a record shrinkage — the lowest it had been since the 1960s when it was filled — but the last two years have brought wet winters, which are showing some signs of recovery for the massive lake. But is it enough? The Lake Powell Water Database reported that as of June 10, Powell sits at 36.69% capacity.

Utah’s reservoirs all sit at around 90% capacity, with the exception of Lake Powell, per the Idaho Capital Sun. “Despite Lake Powell appearing to be far behind Utah’s other reservoirs in terms of capacity, the bureau (Bureau or Reclamation) noted that the situation is much better than last year — currently, it sits at about 24 feet higher than last May, and officials say levels will continue to rise, expected to hit about 41% capacity in June. After that, the bureau said it will decline until spring runoff in 2025.”

The influx of water following the past two snowy winters has brought parts of Lake Powell that were plagued by drought for years back to life — for now. Up until May of last year, a single boat ramp out of 11 was still in operation for houseboats to access the water due to the low water levels.

Mary Plumb, a spokesperson for the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, told KUER 90.1 in May 2023 that due to low water levels and the restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, both national and international travelers remained low in 2022 to about half of the 4.4 million tourists they saw in 2019.

With the rise in water also came the rise in tourism. In one year, according to Axios, it went from 2.8 million to 5.2 million visitors in 2023 and even outranked Zion National Park as Utah’s most visited national park, which has never before happened.

With more people on the water, Glen Canyon released a press release advising tourists to be cautious when in the recreation area.

A boat is seen against the backdrop of Lake Powell’s “bathtub ring,” a light-colored coating of mineral deposits left on the canyon walls during periods of higher water in the reservoir, on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 near Bullfrog. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Rising water levels: The snowpack flowing from the Colorado River and its tributaries is causing Powell’s water levels to rise rapidly. Because of this, the lake can rise by as much as two feet per day, altering the shoreline. Do not leave valuables near the shoreline unattended, or they might just become sunken treasures. That includes anchoring boats or parking cars along the shoreline.

“Visitors should park 300 to 400 feet away from water’s edge, as a weeklong visitor’s vehicle could be inundated (depending on the inflow of water and location), per the press release. “While boating, always approach the shore with caution and watch for shallows and submerged debris.”

Shoreline and debris hazards: Boat operators need to exercise caution while navigating the lake to avoid large debris that may be present, including when approaching the shoreline where there’s a high risk of hitting shallow surfaces.

Keep up with lake information: Predicting specific water levels at any given time is challenging. Visitors can check the park’s water levels here: https://www.nps.gov/glca/learn/changing-lake-levels.htm

Salt Lake City’s National Weather Service also warned in a post on X of high temperatures this week for people planning to visit Glen Canyon National Park later this week: “Very hot temperatures, with highs up to 106°, are likely around Lake Powell Wednesday and Thursday. It is recommended to limit strenuous activities to early morning or evening, drink plenty of fluids, and stay in an air-conditioned room when possible.”