08 Sep 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.