Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Discover the Fun Side of Lake Mead on a Kayak Adventure

Kayakers enjoy the calm waters near the Hoover Dam at the start of an 11-mile paddle up the lower Colorado River to Willow Beach. (Natalie Burt/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Ryan Burt and Chris Burt kayak at Emerald Cave, about two miles from Willow Beach. (Natalie Burt/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Kayakers paddle through morning shadow on the Black Canyon National Water Trail. (Natalie Burt/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Ryan Burt and Will West relax at an Arizona beach on the Black Canyon National Water Trail. (Natalie Burt/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)

You can rent kayaks and skiffs at Lake Las Vegas. (Natalie Burt/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Lake Mead is a treasure for its practical gift of providing drinking water in the desert, but the southern Nevada water source also has a fun side to share.

One of the best ways to enjoy all that fun is to kayak, either for a few hours in the shallows offshore near Lake Mead Marina, or on a day adventure through the beautiful Black Canyon below Hoover Dam.

The rhythm of kayaking is fairly natural, but it’s important to spend some time in the water before planning something challenging. Local beginners can choose to start in the calm waters of Lake Las Vegas or near the Lake Mead Marina, where companies rent out kayaks and distribute life jackets.

After becoming familiar with the demands placed on the muscles of the arms, back, and torso, and realizing the potential discomfort of sitting for hours in a plastic or fiberglass boat, kayakers will be better equipped by conditions to decide whether to ride the lower Colorado. Travel or not, the river is worth taking. Many local vendors offer half-day or full-day kayak rentals and even hotel pickup. It’s also possible to take a guided tour of the Black Canyon National Water Trail, as well as explore the water through the impressive geology.

Start small

Lake Las Vegas offers kayak rentals for $40 an hour or $60 for two hours, according to the Water Sports Company website, and advance reservations are possible. Kayakers begin their adventures on Lake Las Vegas Docks, next to a cluster of restaurants and shops. From there, kayakers wade wherever they want through the 320-acre reservoir surrounded by homes, a golf course and a few hotels.

Kayaking can be enjoyed in Lake Las Vegas, whether you’re training for a bigger adventure or just looking for some fun with the benefits of exercise. Practice builds confidence in kayaking.

Slide down the banks of Lake Mead

The Lake Mead Marina at Hemenway Harbor offers another manageable and inexpensive option for novices or anyone interested in kayaking near the harbor. Rental rates are $25 for one hour or $65 for four hours, according to the company’s website. Kayaks leave the busy marina’s dock, where visitors can see docked boats, as well as fish swimming along the dock and seagulls lounging at the water’s edge. When ready to glide, kayakers can paddle from the dock to shore or to nearby Boulder Island, always with the goal of staying close to the marina rather than the rough waters of motorized boats.

Oars are meant to propel the kayak, but they can also be used to splash fresh water on anyone basking in the southern Nevada sun at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Lower Colorado Limited

Stunning views of Black Canyon geology and the sighting of a Bald Eagle or Bighorn Sheep await those willing to drive to Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the lower Colorado River, southeast of Las Vegas. Book in for four-hour or day-long charters, which give kayakers more than enough time to hike two miles upstream to Emerald Cave and back to Willow Beach Marina.

Rental prices for self-guided tours start at around $70, and visitors must pay $25 or show a park pass before visiting the Willow Beach parking lot and picnic sites that are part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Mornings are best for wildlife viewing and cooler temperatures. The National Park Service maintains a list of kayak providers on its website: nps.gov/lake/planyourvisit/black-canyon-water-trail.htm.

Guided tours to Emerald Cave also start at $139. These three- to four-hour hikes begin at Willow Beach, with the highlight of the trip being time spent in a cave within the towering walls of Arizona’s Black Canyon. When the light is right and the kayaks head into the grotto, the glistening waters of Emerald Cave live up to its name.

Whether taking a tour with a guide or paddling the lower reaches of the Colorado River, it’s not hard to get a better appreciation for the history of Lake Mead while exploring and enjoying the geology and wildlife. Prior to the construction of the Hoover Dam, the unnamed Colorado River flowed through the Black Canyon. Today, kayakers pass through the historic remains of this nearly 90-year-old feat of engineering and construction.

Big time

Paddling the 12 miles from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach adds logistical complexity, physical difficulty, and expense, but this kayaking experience has the potential to become a great memory, as it has for my family.

Whether it’s a guided tour (starting at about $230) or self-guided (about $140), kayakers must carry identification while escorted by a guide on service roads maintained by the US government. Kayak launch site on Flatwater, Colorado River below Hoover Dam. Included in the listed totals is a $32 escort fee and park admission, which in most cases assumes that kayakers meet a guide at the Hoover Dam Lodge first thing in the morning. Another option is shuttle service from some hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. It is better to organize it in advance.

Kayaking 12 miles is a challenge for most, as few people are used to sitting for six or more hours in a compact boat with it being their only source of power. The work is arduous, even with the current favoring the oarsman, and the scenery provides an exceptional distraction from the discomfort.

Float down the river and have the freedom to stop for a snack on the beaches and numb some of the back and arm pain from paddling. So are your chances to see a wild sheep teaching its lamb to drink from the river, a striped bass swimming under a kayak, or a zebra-tailed lizard coiling like a scorpion with its striped tail .

Maps from vendors at the National Park Service and Black Canyon indicate mile points and highlights such as Arizona Hot Springs, where kayakers can stop to view a 20-foot spring of hot water and steel ladders to soak in mineral pools in the shade Can climb on. , Emerald Cave should stop far down the river. Several mile points on the Arizona and Nevada coast are optional and are numbered backwards from 64 at Hoover Dam. Willow Beach at mile marker 52½ is where most kayakers disembark and take the bus back to the Hoover Dam Lodge or Las Vegas.

Organizers caution that the 12-mile self-guided kayak tour is not for the novice. Whether it’s a professionally guided adventure or a self-guided trip from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach, personal floats are a constant necessity (it’s hard to float in cold water when you’re nervous about an unexpected experience out of a kayak ). The vendors also recommend bringing a liter of drinking water per person, as well as plenty of snacks (we packed lunch in a dry bag). Reapplying sunscreen is also important.

The lower Colorado River is rich in caves, waterfalls, beaches, coves, and whimsical rock formations, many of which appear on the map. Kayakers will also make discoveries of their own while making memories on the Black Canyon National Water Trail.

Nation World News Desk
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