Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are inside the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which happens to be right in the middle of many vacations that are travelling through the southwest. The Glen Canyon NRA butts up against the Grand Canyon National Park to the south and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the north. All these parks are managed by the National Park Service (NPS).
The Glen Canyon NRA is home to many popular sites that have become must-see attractions for those driving through the area. These include Marble Canyon/Lees Ferry, Horseshoe Bend, Wahweep Overlook, and Reflection Canyon.
The Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center
At the center of the park is the Glen Canyon Dam, which holds back the water along the Colorado River, creating Lake Powell. The park’s visitor center is attached to the dam, which is situated right along Highway 89, about 2 miles north of Page, AZ.
To visit the dam, head first to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, which is on the north/west side of the bridge. The visitor center is open 9-4 Thursday-Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). The National Recreational Area, however, is open 24 hours a day, year round.
The visitor center does not need to be open to tour the bridge and surrounding area of the dam.
Glen Canyon Overlook
The best vantage point to view the dam from afar is the Glen Canyon Overlook, situated about 5 minutes (2 miles) south along Highway 89. About 1.3 miles from the Visitor Center, you’ll need to turn left on Scenic View Drive, then left again once you reach Overlook Drive. The overlook is at the end of Overlook Drive. The paved parking area has room for about a dozen cars, but there is plenty of room to park along the side of the road if the lot is full.
Glen Canyon Dam Overlook Location
Physical Address of Glen Canyon Dam Overlook: Overlook Dr, Page, AZ 86040
GPS Coordinates to Glen Canyon Dam Overlook: 36.923852, -111.477348
From the Glen Canyon Overlook’s parking lot, you’ll see a lot of the canyon, but not a perfect view of the dam itself. For the best view of the dam, there is a trailhead at the back of the small parking lot that leads to a very short trail (940 feet, or 1/5 of a mile). It is more of a dirt path, but it leads down to the canyon’s rim. The Glen Canyon Dam Overlook Trailhead (wow, that is a mouthful) is not paved, but it does have a metal handrail to help you steady yourself on the uneven path.
Glen Canyon Dam History
The Glen Canyon Dam was built between 1956 and 1963 on the Colorado River in northern Arizona.
The primary purpose of the dam’s construction was to regulate the flow of the Colorado River and to generate hydroelectric power. Additionally, it was designed to store water for use in times of drought and to provide irrigation for the surrounding agricultural areas.
Another reason for building the dam was to control the flooding that had long been a problem along the Colorado River. The construction of the dam enabled the creation of Lake Powell, a large reservoir that can hold up to 26 million acre-feet of water.
The Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam and stands 710 feet (216 meters) tall, making it one of the largest dams in the United States. It is a major source of hydroelectric power in the region and provides water for millions of people, farms, and industries in the western United States.
Unlike the Hoover Dam, you cannot drive over the Glen Canyon Dam. Just downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam is the Glen Canyon Bridge, which is a steel arch bridge that also spans the Colorado River. It was built at the same time as the dam as a way to provide a vehicular crossing of the river and to connect the northern and southern portions of US Route 89. The bridge is 1,271 feet (387 meters) long and stands 700 feet (213 meters) above the river.
Over half of Glen Canyon is occupied by Lake Powell, which was created by the dam. The entire reservoir is located within the boundaries of the park and has several things to see, although not all of them are easy to reach. For instance, the Rainbow Bridge National Monument is only about 30 miles away (straight line) from Glen Canyon Dam, but to drive there would take 2 hours, or 95 miles instead.