Welcome to Echo Bay Marina, your Nevada gateway to the northern reaches of Lake Mead. The marina offers boat rentals, marina services, as well as RV sites with hookups and boat storage facilities."
That friendly welcome is the opening paragraph on the Echo Bay Marina website, but by month's end that statement no longer will be completely true. It seems the country's ongoing economic woes and lingering drought conditions in the Southwest are about to claim another victim in Southern Nevada, the second to fall in the Overton Arm of Lake Mead.
Beginning Feb. 1, boaters and anglers no longer will find commercial services of any kind at Echo Bay Marina. Its fueling stations (land- and water-based), 365 boat slips, dry-dock storage, boat rentals, trailer village, RV park and boat repair shop will be closed. The restaurant and motel already were closed in 2010 at the request of Forever Resorts, the concessionaire that has managed Echo Bay for the past three years.
According to the National Park Service, which oversees the concessions within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Forever Resorts chose not to continue as the concessionaire at Echo Bay. And though the Park Service issued a prospectus seeking applications for the concession, none was submitted, something Park Superintendent Bill Dickinson called unfortunate.
"We have invested millions of dollars to improve the northern area of the park because we are committed to ensuring our visitors who access Lake Mead within the Overton Arm have a quality experience," he said.
At one time, two full-service marinas were in the Overton Arm, Echo Bay and Overton Beach. Dropping water levels in Lake Mead forced the closure of commercial operations at Overton Beach in early 2007, and eventually the launch ramp was shut down as well. That left Echo Bay as the Overton Arm's lone marina, the site of its only functioning launch ramp. Now the nearest on-the-water services will be at Temple Bar located above the Virgin Basin and Callville Bay in the Boulder Basin.
That has Dickinson concerned. "It's important that people know their boats' limits before setting out on the water," he said. "They need to be more cognizant of how far they can travel and safely return before running out of fuel."
Dickinson has a valid point. Because of the remote nature of Lake Mead's upper basins, boaters who visit the area will need to be more aware than ever of their vessels' capabilities and their gas consumption. They can't be like one gentleman I met in my game warden days. He had run out of gas on his way back to the marina and couldn't understand why. When he explained that he had gone as far as he could on six gallons of gas while keeping five gallons for the return trip, that cleared things up.
The good news for boaters, anglers and campers is that all noncommercial services still will be available at Echo Bay.
"The launch ramp, campgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms, fish cleaning station and RV dump station are operated by the National Park Service, and they will continue to be open to the public at Echo Bay after the current (concession) contract expires Jan. 31," said Christie Vanover, public affairs officer for the National Park Service.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His "In the Outdoors" column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.