How Deep Is Lake Powell Normally?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: July 20, 2023
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Key Points

  • In the spring of 2022, Lake Powell reached its lowest level in 57 years.
  • Normally, Lake Powell is 558 feet deep at the dam. Currently, the water is 167 feet below that.
  • Lake Powell is used as a storage area for water for times like this when there is a drought.
Infographic about Lake Powell.
Lake Powell has suffered from the drought and is at its lowest water level ever.

Lake Powell is a large reservoir on the border of Utah and Arizona. It is along the Colorado River and runs through the Glen Canyon Dam which is a hydro-power plant. In the past few years, there has been a drought that has led to the lake being less and less deep. In the spring of 2022, Lake Powell reached the lowest level ever in the past 57 years.

Just how deep is Lake Powell? Why is it so low? How deep is Lake Powell normally? Let’s find out!

Lake Powell is 3,521.64 feet above sea level now, the lowest it has been in more than 50 years!

©worldswildlifewonders/Shutterstock.com

How Deep Is Lake Powell Currently?

Lake Powell is 389.64 feet at the dam. Lakes are also measured by sea level and as of today, the lake is at 3,521.64 feet above sea level.

Check out the current depth of Lake Powell.

How Deep Is Lake Powell Normally?

Normally, Lake Powell is 558 feet deep at the dam. Currently, the water is 168.36 feet below what it usually is. Looking at the sea level measurements, the lake is considered full, “Full Pool”, at 3,700 feet above sea level.

Currently, it is at 3,521.64 feet making it 178.28 below Full Pool. By content, Lake Powell is 22.01% of the Full Pool.

What Has Been The Water Level Of Lake Powell For The Past 5 Years?

Lake Powell Utah

There has been a steady decrease in the lake level since July 2020.

©iStock.com/Lucas Cometto

  • May 10, 2018: 3,609.35 feet (above sea level)
  • 2019: 3,576.02 feet
  • 2020: 3,600.61 feet
  • 2021: 3,561.13 feet
  • 2022: 3,523.25 feet
  • 2023: 3,521.64 feet

As you can see there has been some fluctuation in the water levels. There was a little bit of a recovery in 2020, but since July 2020 there has been a steady decrease.

When Was Lake Powell The Shallowest?

The lowest it had been since the Glen Canyon Dam was first built was in April of 2005 when it reached 3,555 feet above sea level. It reached even lower in April 2022 when water levels were down 185 feet from their high mark and the levels have gone slightly lower yet again in early 2023.

When Was Lake Powell The Deepest?

Man on Boat in Arizona

At its peak, Lake Powell was above the Full Pool mark. Lake Powell is a popular tourist destination for water recreation like boating and fishing.

©kavram/Shutterstock.com

In July of 1983, Lake Powell was over the Full Pool mark at 3,708 feet above sea level, nearly overflowing the Glen Canyon Dam. In April of 1984, it went back down to 3,673 feet and fluctuated between these two approximate levels for about 5 years.

Have There Been Any Other Droughts In The Southwest States?

Yes. There was a great drought in the US in 1983 but the “US Drought of 1983” affected the Midwest more than it did the Southwest. States like Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky were affected by the drought and heat. Lake Powell stayed pretty steady during that time period. However, during the summer of 1989, another drought did affect the Southwest states and Lake Powell felt the impact. Here is how the water levels played out:

  • July 1989: 3,676
  • 1990: 3,650
  • 1992: 3,633
  • Feb. 1993: 3,612 (the lowest it had been since April of 1973, 20 years earlier)

Did Lake Powell Recover From The Drought In 1989?

Yes! By July 1993, it rebounded up 56 feet to reach 3,668 feet. The spring runoff that year, and snow melting from the nearby mountains, contributed to the refilling of the lake. By May 1998 Lake Powell was back at a Full Pool capacity of 3,700 feet.

Will The Spring Runoff This Year Bring The Water Levels Back Up?

The snow melt from the Rocky Mountains and other mountains along the Colorado River helps add to Lake Powell’s water levels.

©iStock.com/zhuzhu

While not likely, it may help. There has been a substantial amount of snow across the Colorado River basin and in the interim, it may delay the worst-case situation and provides more room to be able to work toward a solution.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is taking efforts to protect the water levels at Lake Powell and has begun to reduce water releases from the Glen Canyon Dam until the spring runoff. They are making monthly adjustments through April 2023 and then will begin adding water back into the lake through September of this year after the spring runoff.

Lake Powell has a target elevation of 3,525 that it is dropping below and it is hoped that by making these adjustments, it will boost Lake Powell’s elevation by at least 10 feet.

When Was The Glen Canyon Dam Built?

The Glen Canyon Dam was built between 1956-1963. The dam is what caused the water from the Colorado River to pool just above the dam forming Lake Powell. It began pooling in March of 1963 and reached its Full Pool level of 3,700 on June 20, 1980.

What Is Lake Powell Used For?

Lake Powell is used as a storage area for water for times when there is a drought. The problem is the drought has been going on for some 20 years! Maintaining the water level is important because it has to maintain a certain level in order to make the dam work. If it gets too low it will not flow through the dam and make the generator turbines turn to create energy. Think about your water faucet and trying to fill up a water balloon. You need to have some pressure to get the balloon filled. If it is just a trickle, it won’t work.

Why Is Lake Powell Important?

smallmouth vs largemouth bass

There is excellent fishing in Lake Powell including bass, crappie, walleye, and catfish.

©iStock.com/stammphoto

Lake Powell is important because the power plant at the Glen Canyon Dam produces hydroelectric power for seven states. It is also one of the main sources of domestic water supplies and water for farmers and ranchers along the river. Even if those industries did not exist, Lake Powell is the home to 315 bird species, 14 different fish species including 4 that are endangered, and a variety of other animals and plant life. Many businesses rely on the beauty of the lake for tourism. More than 2 million visitors visit the lake and Glen Lake National Recreation Area each year. They come to spend a few days on a houseboat, swim, kayak, and fish (excellent bass, crappie, walleye, and catfish!).

What Has Been Done To Get The Lake Back To How Deep Lake Powell Is Normally?

The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation announced it would be holding 480,000-acre feet of water in Lake Powell instead of releasing it through the dam. It has also released 500,000-acre feet of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the border of Wyoming and Utah. The Flaming George is a 3 million acre-foot reservoir that is at 78% capacity now. Once the water was released it was hoped that it would raise Lake Powell by 16 feet bringing it to 3,539. It is estimated that it will lower the Flaming George reservoir by 9 feet.

This was considered to be a temporary solution as Flaming Gorge would not be able to handle many more of these emergency releases.

Is Lake Powell The Largest Artificial Lake In The United States?

No, it is the second-largest, with Lake Mead being the largest. Lake Mead is a reservoir created above the Hoover Dam. It can hold 28 million acre-feet of water. Lake Powell can hold 27 million acre-feet of water when it is full.

Lake Mead

The Hoover Dam is a beautiful tourist attraction.

©fellswaymedia/Shutterstock.com

Where is Lake Powell Located on a Map?

Now that you know all about Lake Powell, here’s a map to help you locate it, if you decide to visit. With its gorgeous setting and the waters rising, it’s sure to be a worthwhile trip. Learn about the Navajo Nation while you are in the gateway town of Page.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Lucas Cometto


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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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