Glen Canyon Dam

Home of Lake Powell

The Glen Canyon Dam created Lake Powell

Glen Canyon Dam is the key storage unit in a far-reaching water development plan called the Colorado River Storage Project. When the dam was completed and Lake Powell was formed in 1963, the irregular flows of the Colorado River were brought under control. The now-steady flow from the dam and Lake Powell makes water developments possible throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin and provides a regulated supply of water to meet downstream commitments.

The portion of Glen Canyon you can observe downstream from the dam is typical Navajo sandstone, a thick formation that extends downward about 500 feet below the riverbed. Navajo sandstone is principally solidified sand dunes, perhaps 150 million years old. In this section of the canyon, the cliffs are sheer and high, while the cliffs upstream from the dam along most of Lake Powell were eroded over the ages into many picturesque formations.

This site was chosen for the dam because the canyon is narrow, the rocks are stable with no nearby faults, and an ample supply of hard rock aggregate for concrete was located nearby in the bed of Wahweap Creek. Consequently, the cost of building the dam here was much less than at other sites. Glen Canyon Dam has improved water quality in the river by causing sediment to settle. In the channel below the dam, rainbow trout thrive in the clear, cold water.

Glen Canyon Dam was constructed in 26 separate vertical blocks by placing successive 7.5-foot layers known as lifts on top of each other. You can still see the faint horizontal lines between each layer. The first concrete was placed in June 1960, and the dam was topped out in September 1963. An old photo shows the dam being constructed.

In 1964, the American Society of Civil Engineers voted Glen Canyon Dam the outstanding engineering achievement of the year. Total cost of the Glen Canyon Project, including the dam, power plant, access roads, bridge and facilities in the town of Page, Arizona, was about $272 million. Most of the money is being repaid, amortized over a period of years at interest, to the United States Treasury through the sale of electricity.

The Carl B. Hayden Visitor Center, named for a senior U.S. Senator from Arizona, is a joint effort by two Department of the Interior agencies. Owned and maintained by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Visitor Center is operated by the National Park Service.

Within the rotunda, along the walls and interior dividers, are pictures and audio-visual displays showing construction of Glen Canyon Dam and bridge. Interactive question-and-answer video displays, and various other exhibits such as Native American rugs, weaving and art are also displayed. Photo depictions of local and surrounding area and life can also be seen.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Dam

Take a Virtual Tour of the Dam

Books and maps on the Lakes and Rivers

Boater's Guide to Lake Powell
Lake Mead guide and river map

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