One of our favorite paddle trips, a place that many have no idea about! A desert metropolis, an isolated canyon with much history, clear cold water, starry skies, and hot springs. The Black Canyon of the Colorado River, the section just below Hoover Dam, is this fantastic place.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area has designated 30 miles of river as a national water trail that is open to recreational and commercial boaters. This is a guide to the most popular section, the 12 miles from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach. Visible signs along the way mark river miles. Hoover Dam is at river mile 64, and Willow Beach is approximately mile 52.

Camping and campfires are allowed anywhere along the river. To minimize impact of at-large camping, be sure to use a fire pan or pre-existing fire rings, camp on durable surfaces, respect plants and wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. There are toilets at Arizona Hot Springs, but you must pack out your own waste everywhere else.

Highlights of the journey include

The catch is that boat launches at Hoover Dam are tightly regulated, and permits are only available through authorized outfitters. The one that we choose for this trip was Desert Adventures, you can check out their link A launch permit at the dam is $17 per person, and although outfitters may charge additional fees, they typically offer package deals with guided tours, boat rentals, or shuttle services. *Discounts for holders of The America the Beautiful Annual National Parks PassWind forecasts for the days you plan to paddle are also worth checking. Although many days are nearly calm, high winds are common in this part of the country, and the deep canyon acts like a wind tunnel to funnel air currents either directly north or directly south. Winds can switch direction within the same day, and a strong headwind will make paddling exponentially harder, especially if you are traveling upriver.

Safety Precaution: Hot springs in the Black Canyon may contain Naegleria fowleri, a life-threatening pathogen. To avoid contact, keep your head above water, and don’t let water get in your nose when in a hot spring. In addition, it is a requirement that PFD are worn at all times, if you are caught without your PFD on, it is not taken lightly and you could face fines and be hauled back to Willow Beach. 

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