Zip, Float, Hike – Lake Mead, NV
We had thought a week at Lake Mead National Recreation Area would be long enough – wrong! Being active in the Nevada heat induced us to take a couple of days off to just lounge around and enjoy the view from our site (Steve’s review of Lake Mead RV Village here). But what is it that wore us out, you might wonder?
First we spent a day walking over 14 miles on the Historic National Railroad Tunnel Trail (if you missed that story, click here). On other days we zip-lined over the top of Bootleg Canyon, drifted lazily down the Colorado river, and finally we hiked out to the Arizona Hot Springs. Between all of those activities and trying to explore the area a bit, time flew by.
Zipping over Bootleg Canyon
When Dave and Faye visited us last Christmas, they mentioned that they’d had a great zip-line experience at Boulder City. That was enough for Steve to list it as a “must do” while at Lake Mead. Steve had zipped over the Royal Gorge in Colorado, and he’d been ready for more ever since. And I must have been feeling a bit crazy myself, as I decided to join him!
The 4-segment course run by Flightlinez boasts over 1.5 miles of zipline cable running different lengths and at progressively lower elevations down Red Mountain.
The day began with a scenic van ride to the top of the mountain, with a light-hearted narration containing historical, geological and ecological information along the way. That was followed by a short but fairly strenuous hike to the 3,800′ peak of the mountain, with Steve carrying the trolleys we would use for our zips. The views of Las Vegas, Lake Mead and the Eldorado Valley were awesome from up there.
Click below to see our first zip down the mountain at 60mph:
Our fun lasted for about three hours and covered 8,000′ on the cables. Between runs we relaxed and enjoyed the vistas, and even spotted a trail that John and Pam had followed here. Red Mountain is known for its Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park, an internationally renowned venue for mountain bikers with different types of trails designated as “epic rides.” We saw some bikers hitting the trails below, but we’re pretty sure zipping down was a lot easier.
It was quite a thrill and we had a blast!
Floating through Black Canyon
The following day we embarked on a 12-mile river rafting trip. It followed part of the river’s 30-mile section designated as the National Water Trail of the Lower Colorado River Black Canyon. We learned that it’s one of only 16 National Water Trails, the only one in the southwest and the only one that passes through a desert.
Our adventure began near the base of Hoover Dam, and almost under the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, giving us a different perspective of these man-made marvels from below.
This was a slow float downriver through historic Black Canyon, and it passed rock walls that rose up to 2,000′ above water level.
Our informative guide taught us to note that the east (Arizona) side of Black Canyon, which has steep volcanic cliffs, was cut by water – while the west (Nevada) side has more gently rolling hills formed by erosion and basalt flows.
Floating along, we saw several sandy beaches, stopped to examine active hot springs and rode into Emerald Cave, one of several caves on both sides of the river.
In 1934 the Civilian Conservation Corps built a gauging station in the Black Canyon on the Nevada side. It’s purpose was to determine the impact on the environment after Hoover Dam was completed. Engineers measured the height of the river, water flow rates and water purity. But the most interesting story was how the workers commuted across the river to work each day.
Gaugers would spend months at a time in isolation monitoring the river. The gauger’s house was on the Arizona side and getting to work involved a strenuous hike followed by a self-propelled pull across the river. The station was in operation for 10 years, and the remnants of this crude method of water testing demonstrate the endurance of the human spirit in isolation and remoteness.
Who knew that just a few miles from the neon lights of Las Vegas is such a quiet and refreshing place to recharge and get away from it all? This area is really a great place to kayak, and we saw several folks doing just that. Our tour ended at Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the river.
Hiking to the Arizona Hot Springs
There were many trails to blaze in the Lake Mead area, but we pick one that John and Pam had followed because it had a reward at the end. The Arizona Hot Springs consisted of thigh-deep hot pools in the bottom of a deep, narrow slot canyon near the Colorado River. To get there we took the White Rock Canyon route, following a wash downhill to the river with the canyon towering over us to provide welcome shade.
White Rock Canyon gets its name from the many huge white boulders that were carried down the canyon by flash floods from Wilson Ridge.