Lake Mead National Recreation Area Overview

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada/Arizona (Bruce Heinemann/Photodisc/Getty)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Contact Details
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
601 Nevada Way
Boulder City, NV 89005
Visitor Center: 702-293-8990
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A study in opposites, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area combines the burnished bleakness of the southwestern desert's steep canyons with the cooling depths of freshwater lakes. The area encompasses 110-mile Lake Mead, 67-mile Lake Mohave, hard-to-reach Shivwits Plateau (accessible only from the north via unpaved roads), and the surrounding desert.

Lake Mead, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, was created in the 1930s when the Hoover Dam was constructed on the Colorado River. The Lake Mead Recreation Area isn't only about the lakes, however—in addition to swimming, fishing, and boating, you can also do some hiking or just plain laze about and admire the spectacular views. The meeting of three desert ecosystems—the Great Basin, Sonoran, and Mojave—makes for some stunning contrasts between the weathered mountains and the man-made waterways and attracts those interested in desert flora and fauna.

While the area is popular, its size makes it relatively easy to find some quiet nooks to savor on your own. A range of accommodations is available, including hotels, campgrounds, marinas, and RV parks. Backcountry camping is also allowed along both lakeshores and in other designated locations.

Hike a Desert Wetlands Trail
Take your pick—watery hikes or desert vistas await you. The Wetlands Trail takes you down to the creek and offers good bird-watching. The Callville Trail affords stunning views, including Fortification Hill, Boulder Basin, the River Mountains, and Callville Mesa. If you're in the mood for geology, don't miss the Redstone Trail. Finally, the Northshore Summit Trail rewards you with panoramic vistas of the Muddy Mountains, the red rocks of Bowl of Fire, Bitter Springs Valley, and the Virgin Basin.

More on hiking in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Boat into Iceberg Canyon
Sailing, fishing, waterskiing, windsurfing, houseboating... you name it, and if it's a watery mode of transport, chances are you can do it on Lake Mead. Two destinations, unreachable by car, are not to missed: Iceberg Canyon in Lake Mead, with its steep, narrow gorges, and Lake Mohave's Black Canyon, which retains much of the character of the Colorado.

Fish for Rainbow Trout
Sportfishers flock to the lakes for a top-notch fishing experience—and the fact that it's open season year-round on all species doesn't hurt either. Striped bass are the prize catch on Lake Mead, while Lake Mojave's greatest temptation is rainbow trout. Largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, and bluegill are also there for the catching. Shore fishers need a state fishing license and boat fishers need a license from one state (Arizona or Nevada) and a special stamp from the other.


Published: 22 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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