Daytrip - Black Canyon and Lake Mohave

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Black Canyon-Lake Mohave
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Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino, take Las Vegas Blvd to the ramp onto Las Vegas Expressway, I-515/95/92 S. towards Phoenix/Needles. Travel 19.4 miles and continue on S. Boulder Hwy (US93-S) for 5.6 miles. Before entering Boulder City, turn left onto US.93 and travel 20.8 miles. Make a right turn onto N. Willow Beach Road and go 2.4 miles to Willow Beach. Total distance is about 50.3 miles and takes about an hour.
Area Description: Less than an hours drive from Las Vegas, Willow Beach Marina & Campground (Fig. 01) is located on the Arizona side of the Colorado River at the southern end of the Black Canyon Wilderness Area (Fig. 02). This exquisite Black Canyon region of the Colorado River, varying from sheer cliffs of multicolored rocks to sandy beaches and secluded coves, provides access to more than 235 miles of shoreline for hiking, rafting, boating, fishing and swimming. Renting a boat at Willow Beach allows you to travel the 11 mile stretch (Fig. 03) up-river through Black Canyon, past waterfalls, natural hot springs, to a river view of the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the world’s highest concrete arch bridge and, if the water is high enough, the Hoover Dam which creates Lake Mead, one of largest man made lakes in the country.
Lake Mohave was created with the building of Davis Dam on the Colorado River on the border between Arizona and Nevada, just north of Laughlin, Nevada. With 235 miles of shoreline, the lake runs 67 miles between the base of the Hoover Dam and Davis Dam, is relatively "skinny" with its widest point being only about 4 miles wide. Most of its length is bordered by the steep canyon walls of Eldorado, Pyramid, and Black Canyons as you proceed north. Lake Mohave is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and is administered by the National Park Service.
07/22/2014 Trip Notes: With temperatures predicted to be in the three digits, my friend Jim Herring and I decided to spend the day boating through Black Canyon on Lake Mojave. After reaching the Willow Beach Marina, we began the process of renting a boat for our days journey. We decided upon renting a 17' Campion 60 hp motor that seamed ideal for doing a little lake exploring and cruising around the lake’s many secluded coves. After gassing her up and receiving our boating instructions, we began our journey by heading upriver towards Hoover Dam (Fig. 04). Though this was a “boating” trip and not a hike per say, there are several stops along the river that allow for a variety of hiking opportunities. One that we chose today, the Arizona Hot Springs, is perhaps the most popular. Besides the just spectacular canyon scenery, I have listed some of the highlights of our journey below. Refer to the map in (Fig. 03) when reading about these locations. Also, be sure to click on the images to enlarge for better viewing.
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Willow Beach Fish Hatchery: Heading upstream from the marina, the first thing you pass is the Willow Beach Fish Hatchery (Fig. 05) on the right (Arizona) side of the river. This cold water hatchery raises rainbow trout primarily as mitigation for dams on the Colorado River. Approximately 750,000 trout are stocked annually in the Colorado River from Lake Mead south to the Mexican border.
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Gauger’s Residence Site: About a one and 2/3 miles upstream you come to the remains of the gauger’s residence site (Fig. 06), home to the person who operated the gauging station located further upstream. Because the original structure was demolished, the only thing that remains here are a few concrete foundations along a terraced hillside with some crumbling stone retaining walls.
(Fig. 06)
Cable Tramway & Catwalk: From this location the gauger had to transverse about a mile along a series of treacherous trails on the side of the cliffs that were connected by a cable tramway suspended over a side canyon (Fig. 07), a catwalk of wooden planks laid on steel supports driven into the cliff, with a railing of metal supports and metal cable along its outer edge (Fig. 08). Click to enlarge and view the two circled areas in Figs. 07 & 08. After several hundred more feet of arduous cliff-side hiking is a second cable tramway (Fig. 09).
(Fig. 07)
EFP-Guaging Walkway
(Fig. 08)
Tramway and Gauging Station: The second tramway consists of a flat, shallow rectangular bucket hung by steel supports at each of its four corners from a pair of pulleys, one at each end, suspended from a single cable suspended across the river to the location of the Gauging Station (Fig. 09) The gauging station itself (Fig.10) hangs from the precipitous, vertical wall on the Nevada side of Black Canyon. It consists of a small, square, shed-roofed metal room.hung on a vertical cliff about forty to fifty feet above the surface of the river, whose level varies according to volume of flow. Beneath it, a corrugated pipe about four feet in diameter extends vertically from its floor into the water. The gauging station is held to the cliff only by metal supports. Along the entire south side of the gauging room is a porch. From that porch, a metal ladder leads upstairs to a flat platform with railing, mounted several feet above the shed roof of the gauging room. Near the canyon wall, another platform is mounted 1 story below the gauging room porch, which allows transfer from a ladder which leads down from that porch to the main ladder which is mounted near the corrugated pipe, and leads down to near the surface of the water. The gauging station may be approached either by boat and ladder from below, or by cable tramway to the platform above. The gauging station was built in 1931 and was used during construction of the dam for monitoring downstream water level, flow rate, silt content, etc. The station operated until October 1939, when it was replaced by a new station closer to the dam (.8 mile downstream). It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 21, 1986. It is now home to a colony of double-crested cormorants.
(Fig. 09)
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About five miles upstream, there is a rock formation high on the Arizona canyon wall that resembles the backbone of an animal (Fig.11). Geologists call it a dike; locals call it the Dragon's Back. Between six to seven miles out you come to a place on the Arizona side know as Balanced Rock. This is followed Nevada Falls and a formation called The Window (a natural stone arch on the Nevada side).
(Fig. 11)
Arizona Hot Springs: At about seven miles upstream you come to a large canyon with a beach and camping area on the Arizona side (Fig. 12). Hiking up this canyon leads you to the Arizona Hot Springs. This is probably the most popular stopping point along the lake. After mooring the boat we started to hike up the canyon. Just a few feet from the beach we encountered the waters from the springs, running down the canyon where they disappeared into the sands, flowing underground into the lake (Fig. 13). After hiking a ways up the canyon, we sat and had lunch while watching and listening to the water stream past (Fig. 14). We then continued up the canyon to the hot springs. At the end, you have to climb a 20-foot steel ladder resting on a waterfall in order to reach the springs (Fig. 15). When we reached the springs, there were we found several people who had passed us while we were having lunch soaking and enjoying the thermal effects of the warm springs (Fig. 16)..
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White Rock Canyon: Just a few hundred feet upstream from here, in an area knows as the ringbolt rapids, is the entrance to White Rock Canyon (Figs. 17 & 18). This rocky beach area is the end of a 2.2 mile hike from US-93 above this spot (Fig. 16). Supposedly there is a large ringbolt set in a rock on the Arizona side about 250 yards above the rapids and 15-20 feet above the high water mark. This is one of the many ringbolts used from 1865-1890 to winch steamboats through the rapids. Unfortunately, we were unable to spot it.
(Fig. 17)
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Boy Scout Canyon: Approximately a mile and a half past this area is another large canyon with a beautiful sandy beach on the Nevada side. This is Boy Scout Canyon (Fig. 19). Hot springs and hot pools are located in the canyon. The stream goes underground before it reaches the river. There is also a hot spring located in the canyon directly across the river from Boy Scout Canyon. Less than a half mile from here, there is another hot spring, a waterfall and a small palm tree, known as the only tree of any kind you will see on the river.
(Fig. 19)
Sauna Cave: Another quarter mile upstream on the Nevada side, you will come to the opening of Goldstrike Canyon where the Nevada Hot Springs flow into the river. These are some of the hottest springs along the river. Just past this opening is a steamy cave call the Sauna Cave (Fig. 20). About a half mile past this spot there is a turn in the river that presents you with a view of the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (Fig. 21) and the Hoover Dam (Fig. 22).
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After returning back downriver, we went past the marina and and headed down to Eldorado Canyon. At an area near Nelson’s Landing we found a cove that had a half dozen big horn sheep (Figs. 23-25) that were munching some of the lush vegetation along the shore and drinking from the river.
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The next six pictures (Figs. 26-31), are just a small sampling representative of the magnificent scenic views we enjoyed as we boated up and down the lake. One of the last pictures was taken as we approached Willow Beach Marina from the south (Fig. 32). Notice the white bus in the upper center of the picture that is driving along US-93. The sandy area filled with hoodoos below the highway is the campground just above and behind the marina. The last picture (Fig. 33) was taken as we drove through the campground.
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