Part of Colorado River declared National Water Trail

A stretch of the Colorado River through the nation’s driest state has been named a National Water Trail by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The Black Canyon Water Trail, as it is now known, takes in a 30-mile stretch of the Colorado from the downstream side of Hoover Dam to the mouth of Eldorado Canyon, south of Boulder City.

It is the first such designation of a boating trail in the Southwest and the first to traverse a desert.

In announcing the designation Tuesday, Jewell said the scenic route through Black Canyon joins “a distinctive national network of exemplary water trails” that have won recognition since 2012 as part of a federal initiative to encourage tourism and stewardship.

The stretch of river is already managed by the National Park Service as part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

The designation comes with no additional money or restrictions on public access.

“What this promotes is recreation,” said Christie Vanover, spokeswoman for the National Park Service at Lake Mead.

There are several places to access the water trail, including Nelson’s Landing and Placer Cove on the Nevada side of the canyon and Willow Beach on the Arizona side. Several hiking trails also lead down to the newly designated portion of the river, though the National Park Service recommends against those steep, shadeless routes during the dangerous summer heat.

Vanover said the preferred way to experience the entire water trail in a single sitting is though a guided trip that begins at the base of Hoover Dam, a launch point only accessible by a handful of raft and tour companies permitted to enter the security zone around the dam.

From there, kayakers, boaters and rafters can meander downstream on cold, clear water drawn through the dam from the bottom of Lake Mead, stopping along the way at beaches, hot springs and historic remnants from the days when miners worked the walls of the canyon and steamboats plied its waters. They can also see catwalks, building foundations, gauging stations and trails left over from Hoover Dam construction.

Vanover said the new designation could provide an economic boost to tour companies and outfitters by drawing even more visitors to what is already one of the nation’s busiest Park Service sites. With more than 6 million visitors a year, Lake Mead regularly ranks among the top 10 most popular places in the National Park system, besting the likes of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite.

With the addition of Black Canyon and a trail on Puget Sound in Washington State on Tuesday, there are now 16 National Water Trails.

“These trails provide an opportunity for families to get outside and explore some of our nation’s most beautiful waterways,” National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said in a written statement. “By highlighting them as part of the National Water Trails System, more visitors will have the opportunity to visit and add value to their local economies.”

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Find him on Twitter: @RefriedBrean.

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