Browsing the landscape around Lake Powell makes me always wonder about the lost and hidden geologic treasures since the Glen Canyon Dam became operational and buried everything under water. However, it is not my goal to ponder about the environmental issues related to the flooding or the meaning of progress to the entire Southwest area with the damming of the Colorado River. The objective here is where to explore the area around Lake Powell and how to photograph it at its best.
There are some points of easy access that allow a certain panoramic approach of Lake Powell, but if you want to get serious about it you have to go to Alstrom Point. A good preparation will be essential for a successful and safe trip. You need to have a car with 4 wheel traction and high clearance. This is essential, especially for the last portion of your trip that is a very rough ‘road’. A GPS can be very helpful, mainly when you are heading back to Page after sunset. You can hardly identify the road during normal day light and at dawn and night the road is hardly identifiable. It took some driving in circles until I was back on track. This guessing on where the road is during dawn is not quite attractive. There are vertiginous drops into Lake Powell in front, back, left and right of you. Having a GPS that allows you to scout through the way you came is a big help.
Getting to Alstrom Point:
The starting point of this adventure is in Page, Arizona. Cross the bridge over the Colorado River northbound on Highway 89 until you reach the town of Big Water. To your left is the BLM office. Get there and ask for the directions to Alstrom Point. You will receive some instructions as well as a map. Once you are well equipped with these elements you will cross Highway 89 into Big Water heading east. After 0.2 miles you will see a sign: “Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, State Highway #12”. Make no mistake, the following road is NOT a highway by any means. Nevertheless, turn right and after 0.5 miles you will cross the shallow Wahweap Creek. As soon as you drive up the hill you will find yourself in the Nipple Bench which is an extensive badland area. 2.7 miles further you will see a huge hoodoo to your left. Another 7.8 miles later you will pass on the entrance to the Crosby Canyon to your right. At 11 miles you will see the road to Smoky Hollow to your left and after 11.9 miles you will arrive at a large intersection. The road to your left leads up to the Smoky Mountain Road along the famous Kelly Grade which is a VERY steep road leading in to the heart of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, but that is a different trip. Now you want to bear right and continue on until you reach at 15.6 miles Road #264 leaving to the right straight to Alstrom Point. The road after this point gets more and more adventurous and at the end it leads you through rocky spots where the road is hardly to be identified as such. The last leg of your trip is about 5-7 miles long. It depends very much on where you want to get and from which specific point you want to do your shooting.
The golden and blue hours are the time to be at Alstrom Point. Although shooting at sunrise can be interesting, I believe that sunset is the better time. The sun is in your back and the sky gains wonderful warm hues with lovely red, orange, pink and blue hues right before, during and after sunset. To make this experience even more jaw dropping I recommend to be there just before or at full moon to catch it rising from behind the Navajo Mountain that dominates the horizon in the far.
Actually the entire trip to Alstrom Point can be a very interesting one if you include the Nipple Bench with its different and quite bizarre geologic features. Leave Page, for example, at early morning right after you had your breakfast and did your previous sunrise shooting of the Horseshoe Bend. The light at Nipple Bench can be interesting at most of the day and then you get to Alstrom right on time for the sunset. A wide-angle lens is certainly a good choice for panoramic shots, but I also had good use of a mid-range lens and even the 200mm lens.
If you are into the real experience I recommend to stay at Alstrom Point overnight in a tent to witness and shoot the sunrise.
Last update: Dec. 27, 2010