Horseshoe Bend is a 1,000 foot bend carved by the Colorado River, through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, near Page, AZ. In 1963 the Glen Canyon Dam was constructed to hold back the waters of the Colorado River creating the controversial Lake Powell, and burying what John Wesley Powell said was the most beautiful of all of the canyons he travelled along the Colorado River. Now, the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam is the last original wilderness river corridor stretch available in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, a special treat for kayak enthusiasts.
Due to the fact there are no roads to access the Colorado River gorge except at Lee's Ferry, paddlers start their trip at Lee's Ferry, 15 miles downstream of the Glen Canyon Dam, and the start of the Grand Canyon. At Lee's Ferry, clients of Kayak the Colorado will park their car and board a jet boat on the floating boat dock with their kayak for a 45 minute ride upstream to 1 of 2 spots, where they will be dropped above Horseshoe Bend at mile 10, the Petroglyph Panel, or mile 15 near the base of the Glen Canyon dam.
The Petroglyph Panel at mile 10, upstream of the Lee's Ferry parking area, is a great spot for a day trip. The Colorado River flows at 3 mph along the journey down the Colorado River. Because the Colorado River is a high volume river, it provides a friendly calm river that is perfect for beginner's and experienced kayakers to enjoy the 1000 foot deep gorge. The depth of the Colorado river is generally 10-15 feet deep but will vary all the way to 60 feet deep in a few spots. In the crystal clear river, one can see up to 30 feet deep. One can expect a paddle from the Petroglyph Panel drop point to take approximately 4-6 hours to paddle around Horseshoe Bend and back to the Lee's Ferry parking area. It will take 4 minimum hours to paddle back to Lee's Ferry and if you decide to stop and eat lunch or hike, groups can add that time on to the 4 hour paddle back to the dock. Most people will stop and hike, making the paddle from the Petroglyph Panel a 5-6 hour day. It can be done faster if paddlers paddle vigorously back to the dock, but due to the amazing beauty most paddlers take it easy and lightly paddle down the 3 mph river current.
For folks paddling from the dam in a day, it is encouraged to obtain an early backhaul because the journey will take approximately 6-9 hours for the average paddler. The Glen Canyon dam drop at Kayak Beach is located 15 miles upstream of Lee's Ferry parking area and the paddle will take approximately 6 minimum hours to paddle back on the river to Lee's Ferry. If the group decides to stop, eat lunch, visit the Petroglyph panel and hike, they can expect a 7-9 hours total paddle depending on their choice and duration of stops. Although the paddle can be accomplished in a day, many people going to the dam will have decided to camp overnight in one of the 5 campgrounds along the river.
There is no special permit necessary, the 5 campgrounds are first come first serve, and have bathrooms and fire containers for campfires. Because the river corridor is fragile, and human impact should always be paramount on the mind on adventures, always practice Leave No Trace Ethics, and leave the Glen Canyon National recreation area cleaner than you arrived. Be a steward of the Colorado River eco system and protect your national treasure for generations to come.
In short, it will take 4-6 hours to paddle around Horseshoe Bend to the Lee's Ferry Parking Area, and 6-9 hours to paddle from the Dam to Lee's Ferry. When you arrive at the dock just let the Kayak the Colorado boat captain know how long you would like to paddle, and they will drop you accordingly. For family's with young children, or a tight schedule just let the captain know how long you want to be on the water and they can drop you for a shorter paddle.