DescriptionThis 1.5 million-acre recreation area, established in 1964, was created around Lake Mead, the massive Colorado River reservoir resulting from the construction of Hoover Dam. Exit wild river rapids. Enter motorboating, water skiing and fishing on a placid lake. Further downstream, the completion of Davis Dam in 1951 impounded Lake Mohave, another popular spot with the boat and Jet Ski set. In all, the recreation area extends about 140 miles along the Colorado River from the west end of Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz., down to Bullhead City, Ariz., and its neighbor across the river, Laughlin, Nev.
Though man remodeled nature to suit his thirst for water and hydroelectric power, that doesn't mean the native desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, mule deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, lizards, snakes and tortoises were going to take a hike. Not by a long shot. They're all still here, where three of America's four desert ecosystems—the Mojave, the Great Basin and the Sonoran deserts—meet against a starkly beautiful backdrop of desert mountains, cliffs, canyons and plateaus.
If you're here on a day trip from Vegas and water sports aren't in the cards, point your ride down scenic Lakeshore Road. A good starting point is at the junction of Lakeshore and US 93, next to the Alan Bible Visitor Center. Skirting the shores of Lake Mead, the road winds through desert terrain, passing beaches, boat marinas and several nice viewpoints, some with sheltered picnic tables. From the suggested starting point to the Lake Mead Parkway entrance station, with a few short stops, budget about 30 to 40 minutes.
From fall through spring (soaring summer temps can spell heat stroke), go for a hike. One of the area's best hiking paths is the Redstone Trail, off the Northshore Road at Mile Marker 27. From the Lake Mead Parkway entrance station, it's a good half-hour drive, but well worth it. Sandy walking trails snake past huge, jumbled red rock formations similar to what you'll see at nearby Valley of Fire State Park. The difference is this hidden gem usually lacks the crowds you'll find up the road. Rock scrambling and photography opportunities are outstanding. Pack plenty of water, and perhaps, a lunch; there's a picnic area with shaded tables.
Back at the lakes, whip out your rod and reel. Striped and largemouth bass are the chief catches in Lake Mead; crappie and catfish are common in the waters of Callville Bay. Wherever you cast off, remember that either a Nevada or an Arizona fishing license is required.
If boats, kayaks and personal watercraft are too much fuss, go for a swim. There's a long, kid-friendly strand at Lake Mead's Boulder Beach. The lake bottom here is a bit rocky; those with sensitive tootsies should wear water shoes or sport sandals. Note: No lifeguards are on duty at Boulder Beach or anywhere else in the recreation area. Life jackets are recommended.
Most areas are open daily 24 hours; signs are posted for areas that close earlier. Alan Bible Visitor Center daily 9-4:30. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Food is available. Admission $20 (per private vehicle); $15 (per motorcycle); $10 (per person arriving by other means). Lake-use fee $16 (per boat). Passes are valid for up to 7 days. For further information contact Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005. Phone (702) 293-8990 for the Alan Bible Visitor Center.
Things to SeeHoover Dam
GEM DescriptionA year-round recreation mecca, Lake Mead beckons boaters, anglers, hikers and water skiers as well as those simply in search of scenic drives.