Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Off the Strip Adventure: Kayaking the Black Canyon

To continue on with our adventures off the strip, our next activity was kayaking the Black Canyon in the Colorado River. The Black Canyon is located south of the Hoover Dam, so the water is nice and peaceful due to the controlled output from the dam.

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

There are numerous options for guided tours along the river, some starting near the base of the Hoover Dam, but the guided tours all seemed to be pricey especially because there is a special permit fee for launching at the base of the dam. When I was researching cheaper options, I came across one facility that rents kayaks (and other watercraft) that is located about 10 miles south of the dam. The Willow Beach Marina is located directly on the river and you don’t have to do guided tours—a plus for us since we usually like to go at our own pace and take lots of photos. We made reservations for our kayak rental in advance, but they state on the website it isn’t always necessary to do so.

The marina and launching point is technically in Arizona, not Nevada, as we had to cross over to the east side of the river. There were flash floods when we arrived in Vegas, but thankfully, everything dried up quickly. We noticed signs of the road being washed out when we were driving down into the canyon and were glad that we weren’t there the day prior.

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

The drive to Willow Beach Marina takes about an hour from Las Vegas. To avoid the desert heat, we started out for our kayaking adventure at around 7 a.m. and the road leading down to the marina was deserted. We were just starting to wonder if we were on the right path, when we spotted the river ahead.

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

After checking in and getting our kayaks, we were excited to head out into the canyon for a relaxing paddle. Even though you are in the desert and it can get extremely hot, the water stays pretty cool year round. For this reason, it is required that everyone wears their life jacket at all times—if you fall in, the cold water can be so shocking that it makes it hard to swim and catch your breath.

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

We only saw a handful of people for the first couple hours of our trip. It was so nice to relax and be surrounded by such peaceful nature. About 1.5 miles upriver from the marina there is a cave called Emerald Cave. It gets its name due to the sun reflecting off the water—in the afternoon, the cave glows bright green. Because we didn’t want to add more sunburn to our already pink skin, we decided to hang in the shadows of the cave for a bit. We didn’t get to see the cave light up in all its glory, but with each passing minute, the sun inched over the edge of the canyon and the water became more and more vibrant. The only problem was when boats sped past, we had to be prepared to paddle so the waves didn’t end up smashing us into the rock walls!

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Along the canyon, there are small beaches and caves to explore, and there are even hot springs a short hike up the canyon. We didn’t make it to the hot springs or stop at any of the beaches, but if you have time, it could be a fun side adventure! You can also see paths and wires along the side of the canyon—it looks like they were installed for miners at one point, but I’m not sure. Either way, it would have been interesting to hear the back-story of all those paths.

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Once we decided we were hungry and the sun was getting too hot, we started back towards the marina. It would have been a good idea to pack a lunch, but we didn’t think that far ahead. On our way back, the river was starting to get really busy with tour groups and boaters. We were glad that we opted for a morning paddle because it was nice to have the river to ourselves for a while.

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking the Black Canyon, Off the Strip Adventure, Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking this river was one of our favorite experiences on the trip because the scenery was so gorgeous—the emerald waters, towering canyon walls and bright blue skies made it a day to remember.

 

30 Comments
  • antonette - we12travel
    Twitter:
    Posted at 01:30h, 09 September Reply

    Gorgeous! The water looks so pretty and peaceful, great place for some kayaking. Makes me realize we should have spent more time here than just seeing the dam but then again, we did 5000 km in 4 weeks which is typical European travel style haha 🙂
    antonette – we12travel recently posted…Travel t-shirt report: all about UshuaiaMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:00h, 15 September Reply

      Oh wow–that’s a lot of ground to cover in 4 weeks! I can see how you didn’t have much time in the area! If you have more time on your next visit–we would definitely recommend it!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Visiting the Neon Museum in Las VegasMy Profile

  • Lauren
    Twitter:
    Posted at 01:54h, 09 September Reply

    I love kayaking and this is such a beautiful place, you must have had such a wonderful time! I would love to do this!
    Lauren recently posted…Parliament Building in Quebec City with Beautiful GardensMy Profile

  • Serena
    Twitter:
    Posted at 05:04h, 09 September Reply

    Wow, what an amazing experience this must have been!
    Paddling along that wonderful landscape, just you and the nature.
    I’m not a very good swimmer, so I’d be a bit scared to try, but still kayaking is something that has always been on my bucket list, and I’ll surely note down this one.
    Serena recently posted…About doing things out of your systemMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 02:58h, 15 September Reply

      Thanks, it was great! You should definitely give it a try sometime–the water there is very calm and the kayaks were pretty stable–it was a really relaxing spot!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Visiting the Neon Museum in Las VegasMy Profile

  • Samantha
    Twitter:
    Posted at 08:39h, 09 September Reply

    I love kayaking and this looks like such a peaceful place to do it. It’s funny, I’ve never been to Nevada or Vegas so whenever I hear Las Vegas, casinos always come to my mind. I never imagined there were many fun outdoor activities to do there too!
    Samantha recently posted…Flying in a Seaplane over Beautiful Seattle with Kenmore AirMy Profile

  • Claudia
    Posted at 09:30h, 09 September Reply

    I am not much of a kayaker. I have done it though, and despite being almost helpless at it, I love it – you get a perspective you hardly ever get at the landscape, you can stop where and when you want, and it is not polluting 🙂 The pictures you took are really amazing. I wonder if there can be kayaking tours of a few days?

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 02:55h, 15 September Reply

      Yeah, I definitely agree–the perspective from kayaking is great! And, the not polluting part is always good too! 🙂 I think there are some options for multiple day kayak tours. I’m not sure if they launch from the same spot, but I would guess there would be some further down the river for sure. Would be fun to do one day!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Visiting the Neon Museum in Las VegasMy Profile

  • Hannah
    Twitter:
    Posted at 19:31h, 09 September Reply

    I’m loving these posts featuring great activities in Vegas that don’t involve casinos! Who would have thought kayaking in Vegas? Not me! but it’s a fantastic option for people (like me) who aren’t big gamblers but would still like to see the area. Thanks for sharing, and lovely pics 🙂

  • Meg Jerrard
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:09h, 09 September Reply

    Am really loving this series Jenna! Vegas has such a wealth of activities in it’s surrounds that people just don’t know about. Thanks for raising the profile of Vegas day trip options!
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…32 Reasons To Stay At Monte Carlo VegasMy Profile

  • Lauren Bassart
    Twitter:
    Posted at 07:18h, 10 September Reply

    I love kayaking and I love Vegas 🙂 Next time i’m in the area I will need to check this place out. It is absolutely gorgeous.
    Lauren Bassart recently posted…Canoeing Down The Delaware – The Dog Days are Just BeginningMy Profile

  • Alli
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:36h, 10 September Reply

    Oh wow this looks stunning! Did you edit the colours of these photos? The colours are amazing! Those blues, greens, reds . . . I wish I did something like this when I was JUST in Vegas!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 02:51h, 15 September Reply

      Only some basic edits, but we didn’t really do anything with the colors–the colors were so gorgeous there!! It was hard to believe how vivid everything was, especially the water, and I suppose it helped that it was a beautiful day! That’s too bad you missed it on your last trip–hopefully next time you can head out there! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Visiting the Neon Museum in Las VegasMy Profile

  • Margherita
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:19h, 10 September Reply

    Wait a second… are you sure this is Vegas? Amazing! It looks like the perfect day out. What a great scenery! And well done for opting for the morning paddle, there’s nothing worse than tour groups to spoil a lovely scenery!
    Margherita recently posted…Momondo Friend CompassMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 02:47h, 15 September Reply

      I know, right?! It’s just south of the Hoover Dam, so about an hour drive from Vegas, but it makes a great day trip from the strip! And I agree–nature is so much better when you have it to yourself! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Visiting the Neon Museum in Las VegasMy Profile

  • Bev
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:43h, 11 September Reply

    I love the photos! I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to do this kind of vacation.

  • Lance
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:14h, 16 September Reply

    I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t read many blogs and thought I’d stop in and say hello. Heading to Vegas next month for my first time so your stories are good timing as I begin planning.
    Lance recently posted…Discovering Traverse City Family FunMy Profile

  • Lauri Wakefield
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:48h, 17 September Reply

    I love the article and the pictures – just incredibly beautiful and interesting landscape! I’ve read about river cruises on the Colorado River, but I love seeing it from the perspective of a kayaker. Great article!

  • Suzan
    Posted at 07:56h, 14 May Reply

    Hi Jenna and Micah,

    I found your site by coincident, and glad I did.
    Me and my partner are planning a trip to Vegas 6-11 June and would like to do a kayak tour.
    We have one problem, I am too scared and have never done anything like this.

    I emailed one kayak tour company for advice, but only got a reply that they cannot control the weather and that this is not for me.

    I see that you mentioned the water was very calm, do you have any more insight to share that could help?

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:04h, 21 May Reply

      Hi Suzan! First off, hope you have a wonderful trip! I would think that if you went on a guided tour they would be able to teach you and keep you safe. Maybe ask around and check with a few different tour guides, but ultimately I would go with what they say as they know the area best. It was pretty calm when we were there, but I know that can always change. Hope you get to go and have a great time!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Prague, Czech RepublicMy Profile

  • Marie C
    Posted at 13:12h, 25 September Reply

    Where did you rent your kayaks from?

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