Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Boating and Swimming
Waves breakin on Lake Mead National Rec Area
Waves breakin on Lake Mead National Rec Area (Heather Perry/National Geographic/Getty)

Although Lake Mead and Lake Mohave are the prime attractions for visitors, both lakes often appear as empty as the desert. Sailboats, fishing boats, ski boats, and houseboats all share the lakes' 290 square miles without crowding one another. On these spacious open waters opportunities for sightseeing and other boating activities are varied.

Boaters will find that they can see and reach many scenic areas that are inaccessible to those traveling by car. For example, boats can easily travel up the narrow, steep-walled gorge of Iceberg Canyon in Lake Mead or up the equally spectacular Black Canyon in Lake Mohave, which retains much of the character of the Colorado. Boaters can also investigate the numerous secluded coves formed by fingers of the desert jutting out into the water. Many of these coves are bordered by sandy beaches where you can picnic or camp. The beaches are particularly popular camping spots during the hotter months.

For those who want hours of uninterrupted waterskiing, the lakes' wide basins are perfect, especially when winds are light. Sailboarders will prefer near-shore areas and stronger breezes.

Six concession-operated marinas along Lake Mead and three on Lake Mohave offer a full range of boating services and supplies year-round. Free public launching ramps and parking areas are located at each. Parking is limited to seven days per stay. Marinas rent fishing boats, ski boats, waterskiing equipment, and houseboats.

Several different boat tours are operated by concessionaires. On Lake Mead, a variety of tours, including trips on a paddlewheel vessel, depart daily from Lake Mead Marina. Tickets are sold at the marina. On Lake Mohave one-day raft trips are offered through the slow-moving waters of Black Canyon from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach.

Special organized watersports events, including powerboat and waterskiing races, are conducted each year.


Both desert lakes are clear, clean, and ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The best seasons for swimming are spring, summer, and fall, when temperatures in Lake Mead and much of Lake Mohave average 78 degrees F or a little cooler. In the northern reaches of Lake Mohave, extremely cold temperatures prevail, discouraging most swimmers.

Some beach areas, including Boulder Beach, are designated swimming beaches and have been marked with buoys to restrict boats from entering. These areas provide good swimming, but no lifeguards are present.

Published: 9 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 9 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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