■ Where: Black Canyon National Water Trail, 11.7 miles down the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach, Arizona.
■ How to get there: From Las Vegas take U.S. Highway 93 south to Boulder City. Continue on U.S. 93 about 5 miles entering Lake Mead National Recreation Area and then go left into first parking area at Hoover Dam Lodge. There you will meet your prearranged authorized outfitter and shuttle. For out-of-town visitors, most authorized outfitters offer pickup/drop-off from Strip hotels.
■ What to pack: Sunscreen, hat, bathing suit (worn under clothes), water shoes, quick-dry towel, camera, dry bag for personal items, food and at least a gallon of water per person. A valid ID is required for shuttle to the launch area. If self-guiding your trip, download a Black Canyon map before you leave home.
■ Length of stay: Outings last a day.
■ Main attraction: Launching near the base of the Hoover Dam you will paddle smooth waters between high canyon walls. You’ll see caves, hot springs, coves, waterfalls, sandy beaches and plenty of historical points of interest related to the iconic dam. On a summer paddle you’ll probably land at some small beach and take a dip; the water is refreshingly cold at 54 degrees. Wildlife sightings are common on the river: Look for desert bighorn sheep, bald eagles, osprey, great blue herons and many types of waterfowl. There are rattlesnakes as well, so be careful where you step or place your hands.
■ Not to be overlooked: Whether your trip will be self-guided or guided, you must go through an outfitter approved by the National Park Service. The outfitter will acquire a permit for you, provide equipment and arrange a shuttle through the dam’s security zone down to the launching area. They can also arrange transport back to your vehicle from Willow Beach after your trip. Desert Adventures (702-293-5026, kayaklasvegas.com) and Desert River Kayak (928-754-5320, desertriveroutfitters.com) are reliable. For more information and a list of other approved outfitters, contact Lake Mead National Recreation Area (702-293-8990, nps.gov/lake).
Deborah Wall Las Vegas Review-Journal