1 year of planning, 4 hours at Costco, and endless group texts later… the 12 Best Friends That Anyone Could Have™ (we made shirts) set out on a 10 day adventure through Utah to explore a massive lake in the middle of the desert.
We loaded all of our gear, coolers, hopes and dreams into a truck, an SUV and a Jeep that has a tendency to overheat, and hit the road just in time to pull into Moab around midnight. One of our friends happened to also be camping in Moab, and the plan was to meet up with him at a spot we stayed at last summer, but we may have put a little too much faith in our ability to find it by the light of the moon. So, after an hour or so of off-roading, guesstimating our location by the massive canyon wall to our left and the amount of starry sky that it cutout of our view, we decided to call it a night and pitched our tent on the flattest piece of ground we could find.
Around 8am the next morning, the hot desert sun began to creep over the top of our truck, decimating any shade that had been keeping us cool. We packed up and set out for a day at one of our favorite spots – a desert oasis complete with a waterfall, a few small ponds, great cliff jumping and petroglyphs! After a quick hike meandering through small trees, crossing over a slow-moving river a few times, and climbing up over a huge rock, we arrived at a beautiful paradise in the middle of miles of red rock.
We stayed there all day, soaking up the sun, watching people jump into the water below and laughing every time they did because our friend’s dog, Storm, about had a heart attack until he could confirm they were OK.
Turns out, Stormy has a lot of anxiety when it comes to people jumping into water, which only became more comical when we were living on a house boat in the middle of lake for a week.
After lounging at our little swimming hole all day, we made a pit stop at Canyonlands National Park on our way to the camping spot we meant to stay at the night before and pitched our tents for another restful night sleeping underneath the stars.
The next morning we woke with the sun, too excited to sleep in because we were FINALLY heading to LAKE POWELL! We quickly packed up our temporary homes and, with Torchy’s Tacos heating in the defroster vent, headed into town to pick up a week’s worth of food for 12 people (and hopefully enough ice to keep it all cool).
Once all our groceries were neatly packed into our coolers, we strapped everything down and hit the road: Bullfrog Marina or Bust!
Fast forward a little bit because unpacking our gear and getting the houseboat setup is pretty boring.
BOOM – we’re on the boat and heading toward Escalante Canyon to see what we can see!
The average depth at Lake Powell is 132 feet, so you’re not likely to find a spot to anchor into the lake floor. Instead, we took the small anchors to land and load them up with heavy rocks to keep our houseboat in place. To be honest, it took us a while to figure it out the first night, but once we had a system down, it only took a few minutes to anchor-in.
For the next 8 days, our only worry was making sure to reapply sunscreen and drink enough water. Storm worried anytime one of his people got off the boat, but that’s another story.
Now, when you’re living on a houseboat for a week, you could go for the standard hot dogs and burgers every day… but our crew is too gourmet for that. It also helps when one of your friends went to culinary school, used to work as a chef, and volunteers to plan out your meals for the week! While I stick to a plant-based diet, I can still appreciate when shrimp curry is beautifully prepared on a boat in the middle of a giant lake. Or grilled coconut salmon. Definitely the carrots roasted with lemon and rosemary. Mostly the freshly made fruit smoothies we had every morning with berries and nourishing greens & superfoods!
Lake Powell is HUGE and it’s impossible to see everything from a houseboat, so we rented a speedboat for the entire week – they’re faster and smaller, so you can fit into tight canyons. We also rented jet skis for 3 days, and would definitely recommend it as the best way see Lake Powell!
Every spot we anchored our houseboat had plenty of room to explore on land, and we found some great hikes. Most of them were pretty short, but offered beautiful views of the lake and canyons.
With jet skis, we were able to venture down some tight canyons, hop out once it became too shallow, and hike into places that were practically untouched. One of these hikes was to a small waterfall just past La Gorce Arch. The waterfall is situated in a lush canyon with large trees, birds, and small pools of warm water that are home to every stage of a frog’s lifecycle – tadpoles, tiny frogs with 2 legs and a tail, tiny frogs with 4 legs and a slightly smaller tail… we even saw a beaver swimming in the water!
8 days later, we were blissfully exhausted, ready for some AC and to clean our tanned, sandy bodies in a warm shower; and we’d go back in a heartbeat.
Having lived on a houseboat for a week, we learned a few things that would make this kind of vacation MUCH easier! We’ll be experts next time.
Packing Tips For Your Houseboat Vacation
- Organize your food by day, and get dry ice – this is probably our best tip for a happy lake trip! Get large coolers and place dry ice at the bottom, followed by a layer of cardboard. Place the food you’ll need to 1-2 days (depending on the size of your cooler) on top of the cardboard, and pour a bag of regular ice on top. Close up the cooler and duct tape it shut to keep all the coldness in. Be sure to label the coolers so you know which one to open next. Do this, and even at the end of the week, the cooler with food for days 7 and 8 will still be ice cold!
- Pack eggs in an empty water bottle so you don’t have to worry about the shells breaking.
- Remove items from cardboard packaging before placing in the cooler – the cardboard just gets wet and soggy as the ice melts.
- Fresh fruit makes a great snack in the dry heat! Apples, clementine oranges and frozen grapes are an easy option.
- If you have a paddleboard or kayak, BRING IT!
- Don’t over pack – all you really need are a couple swimming suits, a cover-up, sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen and lotion. The houseboat will have biodegradable soap and shampoo on board.
- We found that sunscreen and lotion that comes in a bottle with a pump were extremely handy!
General Houseboating Tips
- Double check that everything on your houseboat actually works before pulling out of the marina. We eyeballed everything and thought it was in good working condition, but after we were well on our way to Escalante Canyon, we realized the fridge/freezer didn’t work. The bathroom door would get stuck shut, so it was definitely a team effort to make sure no one was stuck in there for too long. We also learned that the grill at the front of the houseboat had some faulty wires and our grill caught on fire a few times. My husband happens to be an expert negotiator and we were compensated for our trouble; but our boat could have blown up so that’s something you should definitely check.
- Tie your floaties together, and then to the boat so you can relax and float for hours without worrying about drifting down the river.
- Create a playlist with enough music to last the entire trip. We completely forgot to do this and, without service on the lake, ended up listening to the same album and single playlist over and over again. The album was Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, and the playlist was smooth jazz. All day. For 8 days. The playlist will never be forgotten again.
- Consider getting a waterproof floating case for your cell phone! Obviously, you’re surrounded by water, and it’s so easy to drop your phone overboard.