National Recreation Area
1933: Recreation Area
About the SiteThis huge recreation area hosts millions of visitors a year on the two important lakes formed by Hoover and Davis dams, Lake Mead and Lake Mojave. Also, three of America's four desert ecosystems (Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran) meet at Lake Mead. Who knew the United States had four deserts? Even more impressive is that this seemingly barren area contains a remarkable number of plants and animals that are found in no other place.
What You're Going to SeeThese two lakes, Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, provide nearly two hundred miles of coastline for vacationers. Swimming is allowed except where posted, boating and fishing provides excellent recreation, and canoeing, diving, hiking, picnicking and waterskiing are all popular. The park is open year-round, but the summer temperatures can be brutal, often rising above 110 degrees fahrenheit. There are plenty of sandy coves where you can park your boat and rest (or explore, or picnic, or camp). Many animals thrive in the desert of the Lake Mead and Lake Mohave area, including bighorn sheep, lizards, squirrels, jackrabbits, tortoises, hawks and other mammals. Joshua trees are well-represented, and winter showers can lead to springtime flowers of surprising variety and color.
Personal ObservationsI saw Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area during a four-site trip in springtime. The first item that caught my attention was that every vehicle that approaches the dam is subject to search. US 93 travels across the top of the dam, and ever since the events of 9-11-01, security here has been greatly heightened. Certain long vehicles, especially tractor-trailers, can't cross the Colorado River there at all, and must go south to Laughlin or northeast to Lake Powell. Check the Bureau of Reclamation website for more information on how best to cross Hoover Dam. Although I got across with a minimal wait, I was warned to expect delays of up to eight hours. Yikes! The good news is that a bypass bridge is under construction, and should be completed in 2008.
Getting ThereThe main visitors center is a few miles north of Boulder, Nevada. Lake Mead can be accessed from either Nevada or Arizona. From Las Vegas, take I-515 southeast (also marked as US 95/93) toward Henderson, and continue on US 93 to Boulder City, a total trip of about 25 miles. Follow the signs to Hoover Dam.
Nearby AttractionsDirectly east you'll find Grand Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Close by, to the southwest, lies Mojave National Preserve. About 100 miles northwest is Death Valley National Park.