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How to Drive a Pontoon Boat

Even if you’ve never been the captain of any water vessels before, you can probably jump in a pontoon boat and be navigating it around a lake without much prior knowledge of the process. Pontoon boats are ideal for novices who want to enjoy the water.

Familiarize Yourself With the Boat

The pontoon boat has a steering wheel that controls the direction on the pontoon, a throttle that adjusts the speed and direction of the propeller, a trim control that sets the propeller height, a radio, lights, horn, and displays for speed and fuel level. Pontoon boats come in various sizes to accommodate large or small groups.

Preparations Prior to Boating

Before you can be ready to get out onto the lake, you’ll need to take care of a few preparations.

Ideally, every passenger on the boat needs to wear a life jacket. This may be mandated by your state law.

With passengers sitting and weight evenly distributed throughout the boat, check the fuel tank to make sure it’s full.

Secure all heavy and loose equipment by tying or fastening them down so nothing moves while you’re boating. This includes water sports equipment, fishing gear, coolers, bags and more.

Check the radio to make sure it’s operating correctly. Have a charged cell phone with you too, in case of emergency.

Firing Up the Engine

Put the key into the ignition, turn it to the “on” position, and start the motor. Allow the motor to warm up for about five minutes.

Trim the motor by moving it so it sits in the water at a shallow level. To do this, push the trim button on the throttle. The proper adjustment will be high, to position the motor so it’s just in the water but not too deep.

Untie any deck roping so you’re ready to move the boat away from the dock.

Moving the Boat

Check to make sure you have an open pathway. Switch the boat into reverse, and use short bursts to move the boat away from the dock. Keep the speed low, turning the steering wheel to maneuver the pontoon boat. Turn the steering wheel so the front or bow of the boat points in the direction you want to move, not unlike a car. Optimally, head the pontoon boat into the wind for the smoothest drive.

Get the boat up to cruising speed by pushing forward on the throttle. Make sure your speed changes slowly and gently, increasing the speed incrementally. This will help you get acclimated to driving the pontoon boat gradually. If you try to drive too fast while you’re learning, you could lose control of the boat.

With the boat in open water, trim the motor into a downward position, which is a lower number on the trim button. This keeps the motor deeper in the water, which also helps keep the bow of the boat rising while you move. Maintain one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand on the throttle at all times.

Watch for hazards, control your speed, keep your passengers evenly spaced on the boat, and make your turns in wide arcs without turning too sharply.

When it’s time to return to the dock, come in slowly. Shift the boat to neutral, coast into position, turn the steering wheel to center the boat in the slip, adjust as necessary and kill the engine. Secure the pontoon boat by tying it in.


tour boat lake powell

Scenic Boat Tours of Lake Powell

Why hire a tour take in the high contrast of lake powell's placid, cool blue waters and colorful warm shores without worrying about logistics..

Written By Austen Diamond


Can you say panoramic? Of course you can, and of course you live for that sort of thing — that’s why you’re visiting the lovely  Lake Powell . But can you say “panoramic” in five languages? While on one of the many Lake Powell boat tours offered from Wahweap Marina in Page, Arizona, (near  Horseshoe Bend  on the Colorado River and  Antelope Canyon ) you’ll have the option to hear an audio tour, with the included audio set, in one of five languages: English, German, French, Italian, and Japanese. So you might learn a thing or two (It’s “panoramica” in Italian, by the way).

tour boat lake powell

Photo: Austen Diamond

tour boat lake powell

Why hire a tour? Take in the high contrast of Lake Powell's placid, cool blue waters and colorful warm shores without worrying about maps or logistics. It's for boat lovers, lake lovers, sightseers and tourists from all over the world; it's for people who want to get on the water but don’t want to take all day for a boat tour and folks who don’t want to deal with the logistics or cost of renting their own boat. You’ll board a vessel with folks from all over the world to see the sites that the lake has to offer. The Panoramic Lake Powell Tour offered by ARAMARK at the Wahweap Marina is an excellent option, and heads across the state line to visit some of Utah’s majestic buttes only seen from the water.

A Grand and Relaxing Evening Tour

The Panoramic Lake Powell Tour takes you by a double-decker boat out to Gunsight Bay and back. This is an excellent option for those who don’t want to deal with the logistics of renting their own boat (or they can’t, for whatever reason) and would prefer to sit back and relax, and take in some views.

As you head out of the marina, you approach Castle Rock (get your cameras ready) and pass east through the Castle Rock Cut, which grants you quicker access to Utah and beyond. The audio set provides historical information about the Native Americans who once called this area home, about the first explorers of the Colorado River — like John Wesley Powell (the lake’s namesake) — and the eventual damming of the river that created this massive body of water and reservoir for the West. Enjoy some refreshments and a nice cool breeze as you coast across the water. While this tour doesn’t stop to let you out of the boat (some of the longer Lake Powell boat tours do), you will venture far and be able get close to the awe-inspiring natural wonders of canyon country. Note the “bathtub ring” which marks the lake’s high point at one time, and take panoramic photos once you reach Gunsight Bay. The boat then turns around, and you can take it all in again. This tour departs at 5 p.m. and returns at 7 p.m.; the two-hour duration is an ideal amount of time to get a softer sun and long, beautiful shadows from the area’s rock formations for your excellent pictures. It's also a good fit for road trips through the region with a  base camp to adventure  in Kanab, Utah.

On scenic boat tours of Lake Powell, enjoy the shimmering water under your boat and the glamorous red rock buttes as the wind rushes through your hair.

For longer visits to Lake Powell, see our  Glen Canyon National Recreation Area  page and  Rainbow Bridge National Monument .

(Once you're hooked on the Lake Powell by boat experience, you may want to return to volunteer for the National Park Service's  Trash Tracker Program , multi-day trips helping NPS keep the shores of the scenic reservoir clean.)

"The two-hour duration is an ideal amount of time to get a softer sun and long, beautiful shadows."

tour boat lake powell

GPS Coordinates, Parking and Regulations

GPS Coordinates: (36.995547, -111.486511) Park at the Lake Powell Resort main parking area, and meet in the lobby 30 minutes prior to departure for all tours. Boarding begins approximately 15 minutes before scheduled departure time. Check  availability  here. Travelers generally take Lake Powell boat tours during the warmer months of the year, April through October. The water temperature will be most mild during the summer, but be forewarned that temperatures can peak over triple digits. Start planning your Lake Powell sightseeing tour today!

Check Dates and Book

Panoramic Lake Powell Tour  

Offered by ARAMARK at the Wahweap Marina

tour boat lake powell

About the Author – Austen Diamond

Austen Diamond is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Salt Lake City. Starry skies, sagebrush and endless red rock trails drew Diamond west from Knoxville, Tennessee, more than a decade ago. After earning accolades for his writing, he picked up a camera to tell stories of Utah's modern pioneers, subcultures and events. Now as a photographer, he blends craftsmanship and authenticity in telling visually arresting stories.

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