The Sixth Most Visited National Park Service Location: Lake Mead National Recreation Area

When you think about Las Vegas, you think about the casinos, shows, and the Vegas Strip. But, did you know that only 30 miles from the strip is the Hoover Dam which is one of the most visited locations on the West Coast? It sees over 60 million more visitors pass by than Vegas. Within that is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area which is home to Black Canyon River Adventures. It puts about 30,000 kayakers and rafters downriver annually. It is based in a 12 ½-mile long canyon and is one of the last canyons on the Colorado River. You will experience history, wildlife, and adventure all in this one stop-recreational tourist spot.

One of the most popular activities is the Black Canyon Raft Tours. These calm-water tours are launched at the base of the Hoover Dam and travel downriver with a knowledgeable tour guide to showcase everything found in the area.

“Some tour guides have been doing this for upwards of 30 years and, for a seasonal business, that is a big deal,” says Chad Taylor, General Manager of Black Canyon River Adventures. “They add personal experiences and have fun stories to tell.”

The standard raft tour is usually three hours long and includes lunch. A modified version of the tour was introduced recently and is only 1.5 hours long with a snack. Since the food is made on-site, it is possible for changes to be made to the menu to accommodate those with gluten-free, vegan, or other food-restrictive diets. They also have charters for group outings so guests can have a meal at the end of the raft tour ranging from barbeques to special dinners.

Every day, around 300 passengers enjoy the raft tour adventures, and each rafting tour is a new opportunity to see the environmental and wildlife aspects of the canyon.

“Black Canyon, Nevada has the largest population of bighorn sheep than any other state along with some geological anomalies,” says Chad. “There are rock layers that differ by millions of years, and we aren’t sure how that happened, but it is pretty unique to see.”

Leslee Blied was added as a narrator to accompany the boat pilot back in 1989 when the rafting tours started growing in size, and her absolute favorite memory involves two bighorn sheep. “A pair of bighorn sheep males were butting heads and the sound they made resonated through the entire canyon.”

The bighorn sheep aren’t the only special animals seen in the area. Many spectators enjoy spotting the red-tailed hawk, great blue heron, and a few bald eagles. Other intriguing sights that guests love to see are the many historical landmarks around.

“The original gauging station that measures the height of water of the canyon with cables is still in place,” says Chad. “We float past two gauging stations along the trip. The original one was located near Willow Beach and was replaced by the one below Hoover Dam in 1939.”

The river is a constant 54°F year-round, no matter the air temperature and the reason for that is very cool.

“The water deep within Lake Mead doesn’t see a lot of daylight and, therefore, is cold. As it makes its way through Lake Mead, it combines with the warmer water at the top, which creates the perfect temperature,” says Chad. “Once the water passes through the dam, the clarity of the water is visible up to 35 feet. Our visitors are amazed at how the clear the water is.”

Outside of the raft tours, there are many other water activities that guests enjoy that holds significant interest.  “Visitors to the area love to see the 140°F hot springs with their healing nature as well as our style of pontoons that were used in WWII to build bridges across rivers.”

There is also camping, hiking, and boating.

Seasoned employee Scott Dietrich enjoys kayaking on the canyon and he says it “recharges your soul and the moving waters change your perspective. Each canyon turn is different.”

“In reality, dollar for dollar, visiting Black Canyon River Adventures is one of the most valuable and inspirational trips you can take, and it’s only 45 minutes from Las Vegas,” says Chad. “It’s surreal.”

Thank you to all team members at Black Canyon River Adventures who work to make this recreation spot one of the best in the American Southwest. If you are interested in visiting this property, visit their website. Don’t forget about your 50% off employee discount!