Photo by Lee Pulaski/Lake Powell Chronicle
The Canyon King moves along U.S. 89 near the entrance to the Chains last Wednesday afternoon on the way to Lake Powell Marine. The boat, which has been a key part of Lake Powell’s history, is being refurbished and turned into a restaurant.
PAGE — The Canyon King roamed Lake Powell for almost 30 years, showing countless visitors the serenity of the area, but it has been sitting quietly at Wahweap Marina for more than a year after being retired. However, the grand paddlewheel might be getting a new lease on life.
Gary Francis of Page purchased the Canyon King in April from Aramark, which had to dock the boat permanently at the end of 2006 after it could no longer meet U.S. Coast Guard standards. As part of the deal, Francis asked if the boat could remain at Wahweap while he made arrangements to get it across the bridge by Glen Canyon Dam.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Canyon King carried out its last duties on the lake as a makeshift visitor center at the marina. Following that, it was kept at Stateline for two weeks until efforts to move the boat across the bridge were finalized.
After removing the boat’s smokestacks, the pilothouse and a lot of its interior workings, Francis was finally able to arrange for the Canyon King to be moved to Lake Powell Marine last Wednesday. It took some effort, including having to refuel the truck carrying the boat after discovering a thief had siphoned it out the night before, but the Canyon King made it to its temporary new home just after 5 p.m. and will stay there while it is being refurbished.
So what happens now? Francis was able to obtain the original drawings for the Canyon King and plans to restore it to its original appearance.
“At one time, between the stacks, it had ‘Canyon King’ on there, and it’s supposed to have all kinds of fish scales,” Francis said.
Originally, the boat also had a walkway for people to stretch their legs. The walkway was eliminated for additional interior space, according to Francis. The boat had picket railing, which he also plans to restore, eliminating the metal mesh railing that exists now. The plywood that exists will be removed and replaced with beat board.
“I’m a rehabber,” Francis said. “We do projects all the time. This is bigger than some, smaller than others.”
Francis also plans to replace the windows and make them appear arched, the way they were on the original Canyon King. He will also put back the whistle that was on the original boat, explaining that the first owner, Tex McClatchy, obtained the whistle off an older paddle wheeler that navigated the Mississippi River.
“That dates back beyond the boat itself,” Francis said.
Francis wanted to purchase the Canyon King right after it was decommissioned, but he knew Aramark had not made a final decision on what to do with the paddle wheeler. He recalled that some of the local employees hoped to make it into a bar or restaurant at the marina, but the bottom of the boat would have needed to be renovated for that to happen.
“It just got more difficult for them to keep it in the water and keep it certified,” Francis said. “Time went by, and they hadn’t used it for anything and they hadn’t sold it, so I decided it was time for me to step forward.”
The idea of a restaurant will become a reality, Francis explained, although the Canyon King will not be in the water as originally intended. A separate kitchen would need to be built as a connection to the boat, as would restrooms in order to keep it in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We’ll make it look like it’s at a dock,” Francis said.
The paddle wheel would be put in a pond created at the site and set in motion to add a little ambience. A patio would be created for people to watch the wheel as it moves.
The proposed restaurant would be simple in nature, serving gourmet pizzas and microbrewery-style beverages. Francis has no plans to sell hard liquor on the boat.
He also wants the Canyon King to be full of memorabilia representing the boat’s history. Francis said a member of the Lake Powell Yacht Club has already donated a sweatshirt dating back to 1986 from when the vessel led the annual Festival of Lights during the Christmas season.
“I know that there are coffee cups and Christmas ornaments that we’d like to have,” Francis said.
He also plans to offer special deals to anyone who can show they were married onboard the Canyon King. The kind of special has yet to be worked out.
At present, Francis has two possible sites in mind for the Canyon King, although no arrangements have been finalized. Ideally, he hopes to relocate it next to where the proposed Imax Theatre is going at Page’s northern border. He is also interested in moving it to where McDonald’s is currently located, as the fast-food chain is building a new restaurant next to the Wal-Mart Supercenter. As long as the boat can go somewhere on U.S. 89, that’s all that matters to Francis.
He estimated that the Canyon King’s refurbishing would take approximately three to four months, but it will take a little longer to find a site and prepare it for the boat. Francis hopes to have the Canyon King ready for visitors once more within a year.
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