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A boat ramp at Lake Powell used to reach the water. There's now a 50-foot drop to the rocks below

A boat ramp at Lake Powell used to reach the water. Now it's a cliff far above it.

PAGE, Ariz. — There's a steep hill on the side of Lake Powell. It's made out of sand and rocks just firm enough to walk on, but loose enough that each step forward feels like half a step backward. 

It's about a hundred or more feet tall with a faint trail leading down the hill toward the lake below. 

This steep, sandy, rocky hill is the only path to get to the boats at the Antelope Point boat launch.

“We tell them, you know, hey, there's this hill," Max Lapekus said at the mouth of the trail. "And then when they get there, it's a whole different perspective on it.”

Lapekus owns Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks. For years, Antelope Point was the spot where his customers would get in their kayaks and take off to the lake.

It's now impossible to use that same paved ramp since the lake's water has receded so far below the boat ramp. The concrete now ends at a cliff far above the water.

Credit: 12News

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“It changed the whole way we operate our business," Lapekus said. "Last year we had to come up with ideas to help get our employees to help the customers carry stuff up and down.”

Other kayak companies have their customers carry or slide their kayaks down the hill to the water. But Lapekus wanted a better way. 

“We bought a big barge and store all of our kayaks on there," Lapekus said. That barge sits at a different marina across the lake in Utah. Every day, Lapekus heads to that marina and unties the barge. 

"Drive it from the marina and back every day. It takes about 30 minutes one way.”

This trip causes Lapekus's day to start at 4:30 a.m. and end late at night.

It doesn't solve the problem of the hill. People still have to climb down the hill to get the kayaks, even if they're waiting in the water.

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Drying up lake, drying up business

The lowering lake waters have hit Lapekus's business harder than the pandemic.

“Last year was one of our record years," he said. "Since the water has now come down farther, it's cut our business in about half.”

There’s still tourism in Lake Powell, although Lapekus said more people have to ask where the lake actually is when they get to town. 

Lapekus still rents kayaks and paddleboards to people, and the lake is still hundreds of feet deep. It may be in danger of dropping to levels that would be disastrous for water users downstream, but it would take a lot more for the water to disappear entirely. 

What Lapekus has to figure out is how to get people to the water if the lake drops even more.

“I am concerned," Lapekus said. "We have a couple plans in place of what we can do."

The Antelope Point boat ramp is run by the Parks Service. Whether or not to extend the ramp is their decision.

A spokesperson told 12News that, while there are plans to extend it, there is currently no funding for an extension. 

Water Wars

Drought, wildfires, heat and monsoon storms: Arizona has seen its fair share of severe weather. Learn everything you need to know about the Grand Canyon State's ever-changing forecasts here.

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