Vegas SUP with the MCIT Inflatable SUP Board
When you think of Las Vegas, Nevada a lot of things likely come to mind. Casino buffets, seniors pulling slot machines, waking up with a headache and vague feeling of guilt…you know what I am saying.
How about winter paddling destination? For paddlers like me whose paddling gets limited in the winter time, Vegas makes an enticing destination. Warm weather, cheap hotel rooms and flights and a variety of paddling options (Lake Mead, Lake Las Vegas, the Colorado River) make Vegas a great place to escape for a quick fix. With inflatable SUP boards like the MCIT, it could not be easier to experience this less obvious side of southern Nevada.
Last week I had the chance to hit one of my favorite places to paddle during the winter months, the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. The Colorado River was dammed near Boulder City, Nevada in the 1930’s by the famous Hoover Dam. Boulder City is about 30 minutes from the strip. The Black Canyon starts at the base of the Hoover Dam. There is no more surreal experience to me than putting in the river in the shadow of that colossal structure. You need to hire one of the local outfitters to escort you down to the base of the dam for security reasons. We hired an outfitter to run the shuttle for us so we only had to worry about getting to Boulder City in the morning in our little rental car with inflatables rolled up in the trunk.
The Colorado River below the Hoover Dam is a striking place. Crystal clear water flows out of the bottom of the dam as all the sediment is settled out in Lake Mead. The stark desert landscape of the canyon creates neck craning visuals around every corner. The clarity of the water is other-worldly…there are times when you can’t easily define the surface of the water and your paddling partners look like they are floating as the paddle by you.
The river is very mild on this 11 mile section of river. The first five miles or so can be described as moving flatwater. There are some eddy lines and the current is swift in places, but there are no whitewater or boulder hazards to be concerned about. The first portion of the trip lends itself to a leisurely pace as the current pulls you along and offers you ample opportunities to check out the canyon and warm up (or shake off last night’s Vegas inspired mischief).
The other reason to take your time in the first few miles are the side canyon hikes that offer stunning desert slot canyons with hot springs pools. The side hikes are cool enough in of themselves to offer all the motivation you need to plan this paddle. Each one is a little different from wider, sandy washes to tight, rock walled gorges with installed ladders and ropes to get up to pools with 103-104 degree water. The most popular springs is the Arizona hot springs which also makes a good spot for lunch, with its big sandy beach and spectacular hot pools perched up in the canyon.
Below the Arizona Hot Springs, the river begins to lose current as it flows into the downstream impoundment of the Mojave Dam. We had perfect conditions, 70 degrees and no headwind. However make sure to check the forecast because the wind can blow on this lower section. On this day it was a great afternoon workout, 6 miles of flatwater with not a soul on the river (one of the reasons I love this river in the winter, I have heard it is a zoo in the summer months).
The take out is at Willow Springs marina and our shuttle was waiting for us as we pulled up at 3:30pm. Heading back into Las Vegas after a day on the water looking and looking out over the desert landscape around Boulder City I was already planning a longer paddling mission to this winter mecca. -Mike Harvey, Salida, CO