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Lake Mead, NV

Lake Mead, NV

Lake Mead, NV

August 10, 2012 // In Nevada

Did you know that if you drive to the middle of the desert and hand someone $30, they’ll give you a boat? Welcome to Lake Mead!

It took me 3 visits to Vegas before I was ready to meander off The Strip. You will need a car, and you will need to be sober… which, understandably, may be a challenge when in Vegas. However, if your brain is about to explode from slot machine jingles and Jager Bombs, ya might be due for a break at a lake.

The scenery from the moment you get out of the city is unreal. It’s like driving through Mars for 30 miles – plan for plenty of photo opp pit stops…

BELOW: A roadside pull off on Northshore Road, Mile marker 27. Clearly marked “Redstone Picnic Area.”  Plus, an easy .5 mile hike with educational signs about the area’s geology. Watch for lizards!

A single road curves through layers upon layers of purple jagged peaks and striking red rock formations until finally a vivid teal-blue streak paints itself into view, just like a mirage – Lake Mead.

There is a public “beach” which recommends water shoes and warns of broken glass. Therefor, many agree that the best way to experience this man-made mega lake is by boat. If you don’t own a boat, you can opt for a touristy Dinner Cruise, canoe/kayak, or get a little adventurous and try out captaining your own rented vessel. You don’t need a boating license – just a driver’s license and some courage. Rentals range from small fishing boats to jet skis to full-sized floating apartments that’ll house a family for weeks. There are 3 marinas to choose from – Here’s the break down:

Las Vegas Boat Harbor/Lake Mead Marina
1 hr drive from Las Vegas
Cheapest rental: $100 pontoon boat rental ($50/hr, 2h minimum)
In the main part of Lake Mead
Sightseeing: Boat to the backside of Hoover Dam, several coves

Callville Bay
1 hr drive from Las Vegas
Cheapest rental: $80 fishing boat rental ($40/hr, 2 hr minimum)
In the main part of Lake Mead
Sightseeing: Boat to the backside of Hoover Dam, several coves

Echo Bay

1.5 hr drive from Las Vegas
Cheapest rental: $60 fishing boat rental ($30/hr, 2 hr minimum)
In the northern arm of Lake Mead
Sightseeing: The Valley of Fire, several coves

* Call beforehand to check availability! You can reserve a boat if you’re planning on using it for a day or more. If you’re only renting by the hour, it’s a first come first serve basis. The marinas will hold a boat for an hour or so if you call before you leave Vegas.

(My original plan was to rent a boat from Callville, but due to their popularity, they were out of hourly rentals by 10am. So, it was off to Echo Bay! Their staff was extremely friendly and extremely patient… If two clueless young ladies and a 2-yr old boy can survive a day of “power boating” on Lake Mead, your nautical dreams can come true too!)

The experience of boating on Lake Mead is like floating over glass through a pastel painting – it’s extremely surreal and beautifully silent, besides the occasional splash from a jumping fish. Within minutes you’ll find your own private pebble beach with crystal clear water and a backdrop of never ending pale mountains.

Ok, it wasn’t all clouds and marshmallows. There were two snafus I’d like to warn my fellow boating novices about:

1)    Steering out of the marina without losing the security deposit. Upon stepping aboard, I was surprised to learn that our 17’ fishing dingy had no steering wheel – just a rudder with a throttle. Good luck! If you want to go left you push right and the power is like a testy old lawnmower. So, put someone you trust behind that motor… or someone with enough cash to cover the damage waiver!

2)    Navigating back to the marina. You know that feeling when you forget where you parked your car? Multiply that by 100 and add in the fear of dying in the middle of the freaking desert. There’s 820 miles of shoreline out there… and after several hours of sun, it all looks the same. “Does that rock look familiar? I think it’s by that rock over there.” My advice to you – look back when you first start out and pick a few distinctive landmarks. Thankfully, the staff at Echo Bay was extremely patient – and a bit humored – and guided us silly novices back after several cell phone calls. I’m not proud, but I’m alive.

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With 1.5 million acres of land, Lake Mead offers endless activities. It’s like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure Books. Visit the Official Site of Lake Mead and see what your next chapter holds:

  • Backcountry
  • Biking
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Photography
  • Picnics
  • Scenic Driving
  • Scuba
  • Guided Tours
  • Canoeing & Kayaking

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