Approximately five hours from Phoenix is vast and impressive Lake Mead. Nevada splits the lake with Arizona and if you are staying in Las Vegas, it is roughly a 25 mile drive from the city. Make a side trip to a great standup paddle option along the way to the lake called, Lake Las Vegas (not in Arizona.) There are plenty of entry points in Nevada, as well as Arizona. Because of the size of Lake Mead, plan for several fun-filled days. This would be a fantastic place to bring a big boat, should you want to stow away the standup paddle boards to really explore for miles and miles. To give you an idea of the size of this lake, you can explore 110 miles going upstream toward the Grand Canyon. It also draws more than 9 million visitors each year and is open year-round.
As Lake Mead begins to drop in elevation when the desert heats up, it causes high demands of water in Las Vegas, Arizona, California and Mexico. Therefore, levels vary from year-to-year, creating a distinct, ashy ‘bath ring.’ There are tons of places to explore here, as it is the largest reservoir in the United States, resembling a mini Lake Powell.
One big attraction is the Hoover Dam, taming the Colorado River since 1935. If you have an interest in seeing the Hoover Dam by water, this can be seen from below or above. There are 9 paved accesses into Lake Mead, and a system of backcountry roads, as well.
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Below the Hoover Dam, you are able to launch for a beautiful float on the Colorado River. You do need to make arrangements to have a service take you to this part at the bottom section, as it is a security zone.
(*TIP: A paddle craft launch permit below the dam can be obtained through the Black Canyon/Willow Beach River Adventures, part of the National Park Service.)
Above the dam is also a beautiful sight to see. Since lake levels are variable, check prior to visiting at any one of these launch areas to make sure they are open before you paddle: Boulder Harbor, Hemenway Harbor, Calville Bay, Echo Bay, Temple Bar and South Cove. One spot on the Arizona side right off of Route 93, Kingman Wash Access Road, is one long, scenic dirt road, that goes down to the north side of the dam. If you travel out of season to this small ‘beach’ section, get there early and it could be a tranquil time, other times of year this place may be quite crowded. When paddling to the upper part of the dam, there are a several rocky outcroppings to view the massive, concrete creation in front of you. Park your SUPs and relaxed comfortably in the sun for a while. Or take a short hike on the burro trails that meander up ridges by the water’s edge, giving you an expansive view of stunning Lake Mead.
(*TIP: This is a spectacular place to shoot photography, with crisp winter skies, blooming spring flowers, and fall colors.)
Author: Suzi DeMaio-Parmentier