PAGE, Ariz. — A thick, white band of newly exposed rock face stretches high above boaters’ heads at Lake Powell, creating a sharp contrast against the famous red desert terrain as their vessels weave through tight canyons that were once underwater. It’s a stark reminder of how far the water level has fallen at the massive reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border. Just last year, it was more than 50 feet (15 meters) higher. Now, the level at the popular destination for houseboat vacations is at a historic low amid a climate change-fueled megadrought engulfing the U.S. West.
At Lake Powell, tents are tucked along shorelines that haven’t seen water for years. Bright-colored jet skis fly across the water, passing kayakers, water skiers, and anglers under a blistering desert sun. Closed boat ramps have forced some houseboats off the lake, leaving tourists and businesses scrambling. One ramp is so far above the water; people have to carry kayaks and stand-up paddleboards down a cliff face to reach the surface.