If there is one place in the Glen Canyon that a tourist should see, it’s the Cathedral in the Desert. The Cathedral in the Desert Lake Powell is known for two things - its similarity to a cathedral (hence, the name) and it’s rare sightings. Rare sightings? What does that mean? Read on to know more about this majestic tourist attraction.
What is the Cathedral in the Desert?
The Cathedral in the Desert is found in the middle of the Glen Canyon. It's a hidden cathedral housed by tall canyon walls. The Cathedral Canyon Lake Powell takes its name from the similarities it has to a cathedral - with spires of rock on the side canyons and still water adding to the solemnity of the place.
While the spot is right at the heart of the Glen Canyon, it is not always accessible. In fact, the last two visits of the place were one way back in 2005 and one just recently in 2018. The irony is that the Lake Powell Cathedral in the Deserts is deep under the water level which makes it a tourist spot that rarely gets visited.
History of the Cathedral in the Desert
The cathedral of the desert was not always inaccessible. In the late 1950s, it was discovered by two explorers having an expedition in the Glen Canyon. As they went further up the Clear Creek Canyon, they realized that their adventure was about to bring them success.
Just off the Clear Creek was a side canyon enveloped by the Colorado River. It is a small open cave that resembled a cathedral with the rock spires reaching up to the sky. In the middle of the gorge, there were two tall rocks wide enough to fit a small waterfall. It was then called Lake Powell Cathedral in the Desert.
Fast forward to 1963 when the Glen Canyon Dam was completed. The Glen Canyon Institute gave way to the construction of a dam that ultimately causes the unusually high water level in the Creek Canyon. In other words, the dam's construction caused the flooding that would submerge the majestic tourist site underwater.
In 2005, photographer James Kay was able to take advantage of the prolonged drought in the Escalante Arm and Lake Powell. He was able to capture Lake Powell, the Escalante River, and the Cathedral in the Desert. What made his visit to the canyon more interesting is the fact that the was the first in 35 years to be able to set foot on the gorge.
Tips on Visiting the Cathedral of the Desert
If you do get the chance to visit the majestic cathedral in Lake Powell, then you will definitely part of the lucky few who were able to witness the serenity and beauty that the Clear Creek Canyon offers. To fully appreciate Clear Creek Canyon, here are a few things you should know:
1. Check the elevation
Before you even go to the Escalante Arm, make sure to check the water elevation. You will only be able to see the Cathedral Canyon when the water is at 3,557'. If it's higher, then you should be traveling by boat because you won't be able to set foot on the gorge.
2. Bring a map
While the Glen Canyon is a lot smaller than the Grand Canyon, you can still easily get lost if you’re not familiar with the place. Always bring a map wherever you go and keep in touch with your guide. If you don’t have a guide, make sure that you are with someone who is good at navigating.
3. Prepare for insane heat
Just because the water level is high most of the time does not mean that the canyon is cool. In fact, the opposite is true. The weather is always warm and hot, so it’s always best to come prepared. Always bring sunscreen to protect your skin and wear light clothes. Bring sunglasses and a hat too to prevent from straining your eyes with the changing colors of the canyon walls.
4. Always be careful
A trip to the gorge involves a lot of climbing and trekking so it’s important that you are always careful with your movements. Hold the ropes firmly and never wander far from your companions. Frequently stopping and resting will save you from being clumsy and famished all throughout the adventure.
Overall, the Cathedral in the Desert is a wonder of nature that should not be missed. If you do get a chance to witness it, take your time to soak up the peace that it brings you.
Want to know more about the Glen Canyon or the Grand Canyon? Advantage Grand Canyon offers trips to the side canyons around the cathedral. You can reach us through our email address or phone for more information.