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Lake Mead’s Northshore Road makes for a great outing

Lake Mead National Recreational Area’s Northshore Road offers gorgeous scenery, a variety of side roads, hiking trails and glimpses of the past. The 55-mile paved route offers ever-changing landscapes with sweeping views of the lake, desert and vivid sandstone outcroppings contrasted against rugged mountains. Take a few short side trips or follow some of several hiking routes to round out a day-long cool-season outing.

Approach the Northshore Road from Las Vegas Valley either on Lake Mead Boulevard through North Las Vegas or on Lake Mead Drive through Henderson. Expect to pay a fee when you stop at an entrance station at the boundary of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Various park passes reduce or eliminate this fee, economical for those who frequently use national parks or monuments and many other federal recreation lands.

The next few weeks will reveal the effects of the generous amounts of rain early this year. A banner wildflower year began with an inch of rain in November and December, followed by late winter and early spring rains. If flowers show up this spring, the first signs will appear on south-facing slopes of hills such as those along the Northshore Road. Flowers usually get a good start by mid-March along this route, peaking in April or around mid-May in higher elevations near the road.

Many intriguing side roads wander down to the lake from the Northshore Road. Explore unpaved routes only if you drive a high-clearance vehicle. Paved side roads access recreational facilities centered on marinas at Calville Bay and Echo Bay, a popular launching area at Overton Beach and picnic facilities at Rogers Spring.

Major developments at Calville and Echo Bay include campgrounds, convenience stores, cafes and motels. Because the lake levels currently stand at historic lows, the marinas sit distant from other facilities. Their crowds of boats moored at docks in the blue lake waters create postcard scenes. Echo Bay remains a center for a fleet of houseboats, a popular vacation option for many visitors.

Calville Bay offers one of the north shore’s many short hikes. The trail begins near the campground’s dump station. It climbs to a fine overview of the bay on its half-mile roundtrip route. Another popular short trail lies about nine miles past the Calville Bay turnoff on the left side of the road. Hiking and photography symbols indicate the Northshore Summit Trail. Less than a half-mile roundtrip, this easy trail provides panoramic views, including the jumble of colorful sandstone cliffs and rock formations known as the Bowl of Fire. Explore the Bowl of Fire when you have several hours, a good map, plenty of water and proper equipment.

Bright, eroded sandstone outcroppings contrast against the neutral desert hues in several locations along the Northshore Road, all related to the formations revealed in Valley of Fire State Park and elsewhere in our area. Get a close-up view where the road passes near the rock formations at Redstone, a fine spot for a picnic. A short, level trail that meanders among the sandstone monoliths begins at Redstone Picnic area.

Rogers Spring, a popular picnicking and hiking area, lies just off the highway a few miles north of the turnoff to echo Bay. Warm water springs feed shallow pools and little creeks at this natural oasis. Visitors enjoy exploring a trail that follows the creek toward the lake or the steep trail to a viewpoint above the oasis.

Continue north to reach the turnoff to Overton Beach. The Northshore Road becomes the highway running north through Overton and Logandale to Interstate 15, passing the eastern entrance to Valley of Fire State Park. Opposite from the park road, a graded road heads for St. Thomas Cove, the site of old St. Thomas, a pioneer Mormon town drowned by Lake Mead as it formed behind Hoover Dam in the 1930s. Because of the low lake level, St. Thomas’s ghostly remains lie exposed for the first time in decades. Scan the ruins with binoculars, or hike about a mile from the end of the graded road to stand among them.

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s columns appear on Sundays.

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