Luxury houseboat sinks on Lake Powell
... and other not-so-clickbaity interludes
About a month ago I wrote about how, when I arrive in my hometown after a long absence, I play the used-to-be game, looking for changes to the landscape and community. When it comes time to leave again, I get to thinking about the qualities and traits that put the place into this Place and that make it home to me and that will always endure, no matter what other changes take place.
I think of friends, family, and of the iconic face of Hermosa Mountain standing sentinel over the green, lush valley of my youth. Of the way the thunderheads pile up on the horizon, their billows holding onto the last light for hours after the sun goes down. Of coyotes yipping their pre-dawn serenade as the stars fade above the Great Sage Plain. Of the fear and exhilaration that come with climbing straight up an obscure mountain-side with friends, summiting just as dark clouds mass above and the first rumble of thunder echoes across the ridge.
And then, after the plane takes off, I once again gaze at the landscape below, trying to decipher what I see—the land’s contours and wrinkles, a slash of green across a backdrop of beige, alpine lakes like gemstones inset among the craggy peaks of the Needles.
And I think of Home.
Some good news for the Colorado River: The San Juan River, one of its major, but also diminishing tributaries, has been running thick and viscous lately, meaning the monsoon is delivering somewhere upstream.
Even the trickle known as the lower Dolores River got a significant boost, jumping from about 14 cubic feet per second at the Bedrock gage, to about 1,260 cfs in just three hours. That must have been a serious slug of water and debris flowing through there.
And some rotten news for the Colorado River and its native fish:
It seems that the dropping lake levels mean that the water running into Glen Canyon Dam’s penstocks and turbines is warmer than it once was, making it more likely that warm-water fish like the smallmouth bass will swim into the penstocks and get spit out into the river below, where they eat native humpback chub.
Okay, okay, now for the more dramatic news about sinking boats. A couple weeks ago I made a big loop around the Four Corners Country, part of which entailed going from the south end of Lake Powell (i.e. the Dam), up through Grand Staircase-Escalante country, and back to the north end of the reservoir. Or what used to be the reservoir, and now is a giant bed of silt with a river running through it.
When in Page and again up in the Bullfrog area, I noticed hundreds of houseboats sitting in big lots on dry ground. That wasn’t a surprise: I figure they pulled the boats out when the water was high and then sinking water levels made the boat ramps inoperable, leaving them high and dry. Levels are up enough now to make one ramp houseboat-able, but it won’t last, so why bother?
What was a surprise to me was the magnitude of some of these things. They were gargantuan, multi-level things, with a good five times more livable square footage than my house. It was a wonder that the things could float. It was also a wonder that, given the housing affordability crisis, squatters hadn’t turned the boat storage lots into de facto trailer parks. Who knows, maybe they have.
Anyway, one of the biggest and most ostentatious of these monstrosities sunk recently:
Apparently there was a big storm coming and these folks waited a little too long to begin their trip back to the marina. High winds caused the craft to begin taking on water and it began sinking, finally dropping below the surface the following morning. The lake where it sank is about 250 feet deep.
As you may have surmised, it was a very expensive boat (and yes, that “H” on top stands for “helicopter,” which is presumably how the passengers were able to escape the sinking ship). I have no idea exactly how much one of these mega Adonia Yachts costs, but I found a used 75-footer of about the same vintage for $2 million. The one that sank and is now possibly feeding the giant catfish rumored to be lurking in Lake Powell’s murky depths was 105 feet long. That’s some pricey catfish bait!
And so, we’ll just leave y’all with a little video of “Knockers” in action when it was still above water.