Sediment Clogs River Runner Access At Former Hite Marina

August 2003. Sediment at Hite Marina, the most upstream facility at Power Reservoir, has necessitated the removal of all reservoir conveniences such as the floating store, fuel docks, water and septic lines, boat rentals, and courtesy docks. The concessions operator, ARAMARK, has towed its floating facilities down-reservoir to keep the facilities from becoming trapped in mud. The land-based facilities at Hite, which includes a store, gasoline, drinking water and a sewer clean-out, remain open to service the needs of the residents and the traveling public. A primitive "use at your own risk" boat takeout area opposite the former Hite boat ramp can still be used by river runners for inflatable and small, hard-hull boats. Since Powell Reservoir continues to drop rapidly, this site could be completely unusable by September, which will force river runners to go another 45 miles down-reservoir to exit at Bullfrog Marina. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area currently has no plans to accommodate river runners by constructing an alternate ramp, despite spending over $1 million earlier in the year to temporarily extend ramps for houseboats and power boats. A description of the takeout site is posted at Canyonlands National Park's Cataract Canyon website at

According to a sediment survey conducted by Mussetter Engineering of Denver in 2000, the Colorado River delta beginning at Dark Canyon and reaching to the mouth of the Dirty Devil River was advancing at a rate of about one mile per year. At present the delta is just beyond Hite Marina where the original river channel is 245 feet below the full reservoir elevation of 3700 feet. The survey predicted another 35 years of power boat access at Hite Marina provided the reservoir could be maintained at full pool. "Such a projection is incredibly optimistic," says John Weisheit, Conservation Director of Living Rivers. "Considering the downstream demand for water, the present drought situation, and how the river erodes into the exposed sediment and feeds the delta, the facilities at Hite may never again be usable." By April of 2004, Powell Reservoir is predicted to be 106 feet below normal. At this elevation, Bullfrog and Antelope Point marinas will be affected by the sustained drought. The lack of incline and shallow depth at the Bullfrog Marina boat ramp will make it very difficult to load and unload boats--especially longer craft such as houseboats and the Bullfrog-to-Halls crossing ferryboat-the only method of transporting land vehicles across the 186-mile-long reservoir. Because Antelope Point is located on a cliff at the rim of the original Colorado River canyon, the dropping reservoir level will perch this boat ramp high and dry. During the spring snowmelt, Powell Reservoir levels rose a mere 11 feet and the reservoir has now returned to the levels of the previous winter, about 90 feet down from full-pool. With no drought relief in sight, this continuing trend will eventually place power generation at risk. The minimum storage level to safely produce electricity is set at 6 million acre-feet. Currently the reservoir is at 50% of capacity storing 12.7 million acre-feet of water. Power generation at Glen Canyon Dam could effectively end in two or three years under present drought conditions. "This drought emphasizes the dubious nature of Lake Powell reservoir. By decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam we could restore five hundred miles of river to its natural habitat, which includes Grand Canyon National Park, while at the same time saving the water that is otherwise lost to evaporation" observes Weisheit.