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Lake Mead popular with families on Labor Day, but less so in 2021

Updated September 6, 2021 - 4:06 pm

The desert heat and receding shoreline didn’t stop families from flocking to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area for Labor Day.

“Considering I work six days a week, this extra Monday is very well earned,” said 28-year-old Brianna Ferris, who works in the sports betting industry. “Being out here with my family and my friends, there’s nothing better.”

Temperatures were in the mid-90s by 10 a.m., as the Boulder Beach area filled with portable canopies, lawn chairs and children running along the rocky shore. While the park gets about 125,000 visitors on a typical Labor Day weekend, Monday appeared less crowded than usual, according to recreation area spokesman Justin Pattison.

Arizona’s Willow Beach, which normally fills to capacity by mid-morning on holidays, had not hit capacity this weekend, Pattison said Monday afternoon.

While beach areas were open, some boat ramps remained closed because of low water levels. The Boulder Harbor boat launch area, a short drive from Boulder Beach, was closed in June because the channel that separates the launch area from the lake is only about 2½ feet deep, which is “unfit” to provide safe lake access, the park service said.

In June, the lake’s water level reached a historic low of 1,071.48 feet, surpassing the record of 1,071.61 feet set in July 2016. The lake is nearing its first federally declared water shortage, the result of a two-decade drought that has strained the Colorado River, which provides water to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico.

“It’s more of a scary thought than a sad thought,” Ferris said about the water level, which has lowered significantly from when she used to go boating as a child.

Greg Ball, who took his three children and wife to the beach on Monday, said he hopes the water level rebounds soon. But on Monday he was just happy to have a day off with his family.

“We wanted to go swimming,” said his 9-year-old daughter, Makayla, before she ran off to continue collecting shells.

By mid-morning, the smell of grilling hamburgers drifted across the beach, mingling with the Hawaiian music echoing through speakers from Ed Mund’s family canopy.

At least 15 family members, including a handful of children playing in the water and in the rocky sand, gathered to celebrate the holiday weekend. Mund, who said he works 60 hours a week at his job with UPS, said his family hasn’t been able to come together for a beach day in years.

“We just wanted to get away from the city,” Mund said.

For current conditions, including boat launch area conditions, visit nps.gov/lake.

Last week, the park service reminded visitors that inflatable and noninflatable pool toys are prohibited on the lake, including arm bands, beach balls and pool noodles.

But inflatable kayaks, paddle boards, kite board and float tubes are allowed. Water-based recreation items used for attaching to or towing behind a vessel are also allowed.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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