Black Canyon National Water Trail – Boulder City, Nevada - Atlas Obscura

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Black Canyon National Water Trail

See Hoover Dam and the bypass bridge from a perspective usually off-limits to the public, and float the upper part of the Black Canyon National Water Trail. 


Hoover Dam has tight security, especially in this post-9/11 era. There are strict limits on where the public is allowed in the vicinity of the dam. In particular, views of the dam from downstream are not available to the public, with one exception: an authorized float trip that puts into Lake Mohave, which is backed up by Davis Dam downstream, just below Hoover Dam. This launch point is reached on a road that otherwise is closed to the public.

The launch point marks the beginning of the Black Canyon National Water Trail. It was the first water trail in the Southwest and the first in a desert. Although the rapids formerly present here have been drowned by Lake Mohave, so that the float trip is not a whitewater experience, the lake remains narrow enough to preserve much of the flavor of the Colorado River as it flows through this deep desert canyon. A well-defined current is even still present. Dark craggy rock walls loom over the water, with springs marked by incongruously green vegetation here and there. Sightings of wildlife, including the desert bighorn sheep, are practically guaranteed. The water is cold and clear, due to Hoover Dam, so that even on a hot summer day when the sun is baking the canyon walls a dip in the water provides quick relief.

The takeout point for the float trips is usually Willow Beach, a small marina, campground, and launch ramp on the Arizona side about 11.5 river miles below Hoover Dam. At this point Lake Mohave is clearly broadening out into a lake, although the Black Canyon trail officially continues another 13.5 miles to Eldorado Canyon on the Nevada side.

Know Before You Go

The National Park Service maintains a list of authorized outfitters for the float trips.  Typically the outfitter provides bus transportation to the launch point and back from Willow Beach. You must use an authorized outfitter to take this trip!

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December 31, 2021

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