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Lake Mead National Recreation Area - Echo Bay, NV
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 - 2:00pm by Lolo
348 miles and 7 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay
The best word to describe Lake Mead in the summer time is “HOT!!” It was 120 °F when we arrived and despite it being “dry” heat as opposed to the humid heat back home, it still was extremely uncomfortable. As we checked into our campground at Echo Bay, we looked longingly down at the lake, but alas, it was not to be. The gentleman at the desk of the Seven Crowns Resort informed us that there was no beach or lake access at Echo Bay, nor for that matter, from anywhere nearby. I wanted to reach across the desk and choke him with my sweaty hands.
The water looked so inviting, but we would just have to wait until tomorrow when we had our ski boat rental. Not having much else to do in the heat, we decided to go down to the marina and make sure that everything was set for tomorrow. At the docks we encountered the most bizarre scene – hundreds of 2-foot long carp with gaping mouths practically climbing all over each other in their attempts to get a handout. It looked like a scene from a horror movie. However, it did succeed in making the water seem a little less tempting. I think we were all silently hoping that these creatures remained near the docks and that we wouldn’t be swimming amongst them tomorrow.
We drove back up the long hill to the campground, which disappointingly did not have a view of the lake. However, it did have electric, so we plugged in and waited for the AC to kick in. Gradually it got down to a relatively refreshing 85 °F.
The boys had been absent from civilization (as in Internet access) for several days now, so they took their laptops and rode down the steep hill to the Seven Crowns Motel where there was free WIFI (and probably better AC than we could get in the RV). They were gone for hours.
The next morning we arose bright and early to claim our ski boat at the earliest possible hour. After about a half-hour instruction from the marina on boat do’s and don’t, we were ready to go. All my bad thoughts about Lake Mead melted away as we skimmed across the water taking in the awesome scenery. We took advantage of the early morning calm waters to do some waterskiing. The marina people had warned us that July was monsoon season and that the winds really picked up in the afternoon. We would later find out how true that was, but for now we blissfully cruised the lake looking for a cove to hang out in for the day. We didn’t have any detailed charts of the lake so we weren’t exactly sure where we were going, but we did find a great cove in what we think was Temple Bay.
There really aren’t beaches along this part of the lake, so we just tied the boat up to rocks on either side of a canyon and swam from the boat. The water was a superb 80 °F, perfect for just floating in the two collapsible floats we brought along. As usual, the boys found a creative way to entertain themselves, similar to the “scrotum squeezer” they had invented 2 years prior on our trip to Lake Powell (see Trip 2005 – Lake Powell if this has piqued your interest). It’s not as bad as it sounds. What they do is try to see how many life preservers they can put on themselves and then jump in the water. This year they achieved 8—1 normally placed, one upside down worn like a diaper (the illustrious “scrotum squeezer”), 2 on each arm, and 2 around their necks. Needless to say, this outfit made for some interesting dives off the boat.
Eventually, we left our secluded cove and headed back out onto the main part of the lake. As foretold, the winds had picked up a great deal and there were some serious white caps on the lake. However, we still had an hour or two left on the rental, and we were not about to return this boat 1 minute sooner than we had to. We scanned the shore and saw a beach that looked somewhat protected from the wind. As we slowly approached the beach, I took a line from the boat and suavely jumped off the bow onto the shore to secure us. Unfortunately, what deceptively looked a lot like sand was actually muck, and I sank straight down to my thighs. I wasn’t sure if and when I was going to stop sinking. Needless to say, Herb and the boys were hysterical as I struggled to remove myself from this predicament. It wasn’t pretty.
The boys have less of a problem than I do playing in muck, so they quickly jumped in to join me. Unfortunately, there were some broken shells buried in the muck and they both managed to cut themselves.
Knowing the heat awaiting us back at the campground, we swam around till the very last minute before returning to the Marina. After returning the boat, we killed some time playing with the giant carp that hung around the dock. Herb was the only one brave enough to hand feed them Ritz Crackers. They really were harmless—no teeth and all lips.
That evening, despite the heat, the boys really had to get in a long run. They waited until it got dark and a bit cooler (100 °F). For some reason they went separate ways. Tommy decided to leave the campground and run along the road away from the lake. On the way back, he did some unplanned intervals after a coyote came out of the bushes alongside the road. Meanwhile, Andrew decided to do 40 laps around the campground loop, which we had previously measured as a ¼ mile. I think the entire campground must have thought he was crazy.
Well, I think we were all pretty much done with the heat and ready to move on. However, our next stop was Death Valley, so we would all have to put up with it for a little bit longer.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Nevada/Arizona border encompasses 1.5 million acres surrounding the Colorado River as it flows from the Grand Canyon through the desert to Lake Mojave. The centerpiece of the recreation area is 110-mile-long Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in the country and a mecca for swimmers, boaters, anglers, windsurfers, and sightseers.
The lake was formed back in the 1930s by the construction of the Hoover Dam, which rises 726 feet above the bedrock and stretches 1,244 feet across the Black Canyon, making it the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere. Because of the dam, Lake Mead can store up to 2 years of Colorado River flow. The water is then released in a regulated flow as needed. Today the reservoir irrigates over 2 million acres of land and supplies water for more than 14 million people.
In addition to its practical usage, Lake Mead attracts more than 9 million visitors each year who come to enjoy its many recreational opportunities. One of the big draws is the weather, which is usually sunny and hot, up to 110 °F in summer with water temperatures in the mid 80's.
For those that are just driving through, the Lakeshore Scenic Drive along the western end of the lake and the Northshore Scenic Drive along the entire northern portion of the lake wind through desert basins and canyons, providing striking panoramic views of the crystal blue lake set against a background of colorful mountains.
There are 5 major access points to the lake along the way (clockwise from the Hoover Dam):
- Boulder Beach, on the Lakeshore Scenic Drive just a few miles north of the Alan Bible Visitor Center, is the most popular swimming beach on the lake. It is also the only one that you don’t need a boat to get to. Nearby is the Lake Mead Marina, which rents boats, and the shady 154-site Boulder Beach Campground.
- Las Vegas Bay lies seven miles north of Boulder Beach. The 89-site Las Vegas Bay Campground sits on a bluff overlooking the lake. There is also a marina with boat rentals.
- Callville Bay is located at the end of a 4-mile hilly spur road off the Northshore Scenic Drive. There is an 80-site campground and a marina for boat rentals.
- Echo Bay is located at the end of a 5-mile hilly spur road off the Northshore Scenic Drive, about 24 miles east of the turnoff for Callville Bay. The Echo Bay Campground has 166 sites and there is a marina with boat rentals.
- Overton Beach is another 10 miles east on the Northshore Scenic Drive. Its marina and campground have been closed due to lowering lake levels.
- The best way by far to explore the beauty of the lake and the surrounding canyons is by boat. Either rent one on your own at one of the many marinas or take a cruise on a paddlewheeler to and from the Hoover Dam with Lake Mead Cruises.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area - Echo Bay location map in "high definition"