Stretching an impressive 140 miles along the Colorado River from the mouth of the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is impressive with its lakes of deep blue water, towering desert and mountain scenery, its wildlife, and its many outdoor activities.
Covering 1.5 million acres, twice the size of Rhode Island, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is big, diverse, and extreme. Temperatures can be harsh, from 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert in summer to below freezing in winter on the high plateaus. Two huge lakes, Mead and Mohave, are the big draw.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers a lifetime of things to do and places to go any time of the year. Its lakes cater to boaters, swimmers, sunbathers, and fishermen, while hikers, artists, and wildlife photographers love its desert surroundings. It is home to thousands of desert plants and animals specially adapted to survive in an extreme environment where rain is scarce and summertime temperatures soar.
The region’s good weather draws visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area year-round. Snowbirds from states with harsh winters come to spend their days enjoying the outdoors and the sunshine. Sunbathers and water skiers come in the summer to toast in the 110° plus temperatures. The area generally has less than five inches of rainfall annually. Water temperatures range from 45°F to 85°F at different times of the year.
Before the existence of Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and Hoover Dam, the area was home to early desert Indian cultures, explorers, prospectors, and pioneers looking for cheap land and religious freedom.
Several Native American cultures lived here 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, in an environment wetter and cooler than it is today. They hunted wild game, gathered edible plants, and practiced farming. Archaeologists say that some were hunter/gatherers and lived in caves; other groups lived in pit houses and Pueblo-type structures and practiced early farming. Ranging from present-day Davis Dam north to the Virgin and Muddy Rivers, these early farmers grew corn, beans, squash, and cotton.
In a cave near present-day Lake Mead, the remains of large mammals were discovered, including ground sloths, horses, camels, and mountain sheep. Notches and marks found on the bones of these animals show evidence that they were killed and eaten by humans.
The region became more and more populated by white settlers with the advent of rail transportation and the discovery of gold and silver in the mountains of southern Nevada. Mormon pioneers established communities, and prospectors established mining claims up and down the river.
Construction on Boulder Dam, later renamed Hoover Dam, began in 1931, with the last concrete poured in 1935. Rising 726 feet, Hoover Dam is the Western Hemisphere’s highest concrete dam. Its base is 660 feet thick, the top is 45 feet thick, and it stretches 1,244 feet across Black Canyon. 4.4 million cubic yards of concrete were used in the construction of the dam and power plant.
The reservoir created by the damming of the Colorado River became Lake Mead. As Lake Mead was filling, it quickly became obvious that it would be a unique resource. A giant lake in the desert offered almost unlimited water-based recreation on a year-round basis. The newly formed lake quickly began attracting thousands of visitors to this wonderland of desert and water. Lake Mead National Recreation Area became the country’s first national recreation area, in 1964. Today, millions of visitors come here each year to enjoy the many recreational opportunities found within the park’s diverse landscape.
Visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area enjoy a variety of water recreation activities in a rugged and picturesque setting. The lakes and the Colorado River boast some of the country’s best sport fishing. Anglers come here to catch largemouth and striped bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and rainbow trout. Boating and water skiing are favorite activities, along with kayaking and canoeing.
To get the most out of a visit to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a boat is essential. Visitors who do not have their own boats can rent anything from a canoe to a houseboat at the many marinas in the region. Although much of Lake Mead must be experienced by boat, the various campgrounds, marinas, and other facilities clustered around the lake make it possible for non-boaters to enjoy it as well. Millions of people use the lake each year, and many return again and again to a favorite cove or campground. Shaded picnic areas with tables, water, fire grills, and restrooms are located throughout the area.
Several paved roads wind through the dramatic desert scenery, offering a variety of day trips by car, motorcycle, or bicycle. Towering rock-faced mountains, high plateaus, desert basins covered with cacti and creosote bush, and steep vertical-walled canyons are around every bend in the road. Bring plenty of water and comfortable hiking shoes because many short desert hikes lead to places visitors will never see from a boat or car.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area has several campgrounds that are open all year, featuring restrooms, both primitive and RV sites with running water, dump stations, grills, picnic tables, and shade. There are also concessionaire-operated campgrounds, with RV hookups available within the Recreation Area.
And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.
Thought For The Day – Sometimes, you just have to roll down your car window and bark at people.