As Lake Powell’s water levels continue to drop, a stunning landscape resurfaces—along with questions about the future of the Colorado River and those who depend on it.

There is the crumpling, the mess. A marina that once floated in a cove has been towed out of the shrinking lake and dropped in a field of Russian thistle, its metal pontoons partially sunk into dry, crack-crazed soil. Cooler doors stand open—the marina was once known for its ice cream—and conduits hang from ceilings, wires stripped.

Any restoration might look like this at the start, might exude the strange ugliness of decay. Dangling Rope Marina, the size of a couple of convenience stores, once sold 1.5 million gallons of gas every year, powering the hundreds of boats that, on any given summer day, plied the watery pleasure garden of Lake Powell. Now, its outer doors hang half-open; the interpretive displays bleach in the sun. The official reason for its 2021 closure was “significant wind damage and low water conditions.” The cove it once occupied is disappearing, turning back into land as the lake levels fall. The depth of the surrounding bay has dropped from about 200 feet to 35 feet, and only one of the boat ramps is still operable.


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