Aug 25, 2010

Flat Water Rafting on the Colorado River

John and I visit Las Vegas at least once a year because our son and his family live there. When most people hear we are going to Las Vegas they think we are going to gamble but there is more to Las Vegas than gambling. Last year we took a houseboat vacation on Lake Mohave. A few years ago we spent Thanksgiving on a houseboat on Lake Mead. Many people are surprised to realize that Las Vegas is a place to get close to nature. This year we spent several hours flat water rafting just a short distance from the Strip. We – the seven of us – drove to Boulder City and checked in at Black Canyon/Willow Beach River Adventures located in the Hacienda Hotel. We put into the Colorado River at the foot of the massive Hoover Dam at a place where only the rafters are allowed. There were 16 of us on the raft but the motorized-assisted raft could hold twice as many. Even though it was December and the weather was cool it was sunny.

The Hoover Dam is a destination unto itself but we saw the Hoover Dam as few see it - from the bottom. If you think it looks big from the top you should see it from the bottom. Matt, our guide, shared fascinating stories dealing the construction of the dam and pointed out various aspects of the dam not visible from the top of the dam. The dam is 726.4 feet from the foundation rock to the roadway on the top of the dam but the towers add another 40 feet. The amount of concrete used to build the dam could have paved a highway 16 feet wide from San Francisco to New York City. When it was completed in 1936, it was the world’s largest hydroelectric power generating station and the world’s largest concrete structure. They are building a new bridge across the span because of the traffic jams on the only road to traverse the dam.

We headed down the Colorado River as it twisted and turned through 12 miles of Black Canyon surrounded by majestic 2000-foot rocky walls. Many people think that rafting on the portion of the Colorado River below the dam is much more scenic because the canyon is narrower than it is above the dam. All the while we were on the lookout for desert wildlife and saw cormorants, great blue herons, bald eagles, and other wildlife. Along the way the guide shared information on the area’s geology, the miners, and personal boating and hiking experiences. We passed two canyons that were filled to the top with the rock excavated to create the dam. Our pontoon raft put ashore at Swim Beach for lunch, which is provided. It was too cold for swimming but we enjoyed walking on the beach, climbing the rocks, and basking in the sun.

The rafting trip offered by Black Canyon/Willow Beach River Adventures is suitable for all ages and even those with physical limitations are accommodated. There is no paddling on this basically dry trip. About three hours are spent on the river and upon reaching Willow Beach Marina there is time for shopping before heading back to the starting point at the Hacienda Hotel in Boulder City by van or bus. We drove but they also supply transportation from the Strip. For more information check